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Alert Number 236

Secondary Cancers in CLL & What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

Date: June 8, 2007

Secondary cancer risk is very real for CLL patients, either as a result of the dysfunctional immune system that goes with this disease or because of the toxic side-effects of the drugs we must take in order to control the CLL. CLL Topics has been vocal in sounding this alarm – and we are now happy to see that researchers are beginning to track this potentially life-threatening consequence of CLL. Our 2006 ASH Highlights article reviewed some of the latest results on this front, based on large scale retrospective “data mining” from institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and M. D. Anderson. Please review this, if you have not done so already. This is important information. Too many CLL patients who write to me after diagnosis of a second cancer sound positively amazed and shocked this could be happening to them.

On a more positive note, CLL Topics has been very active in reporting on the beneficial effects of Vitamin D3 supplements for CLL patients. You should know by now that:

  1. Vitamin D3 is made in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. Sunscreen lotions, clothes, hair, dark skin, northern latitudes, winter months: all interfere with this process. Vast numbers of our population are deficient in this very important vitamin, especially during the winter months. This is reaching epidemic proportions and raising warning bells within the medical community.
  2. However, CLL patients are also at very much higher risk of aggressive skin cancer. “Best Practices” from several top rated institutions recommend prudence in exposure to skin damaging UV, and frequent dermatological check-ups to monitor innocent looking squamous cell or basal cell carcinomas. Aldara (generic name imiquimod) is an exciting new topical application drug now being used to try and nip actinic keratosis (pre-cancerous skin lesions) in the bud. It is also being used as a “belt-and-suspenders” approach after Moh’s surgery to remove skin cancer lesions and attempt prevention of re-occurrence.
  3. I keep harping on how there are no free lunches around for us chickens. Here is one conspicuous exception: you need vitamin D3, which is usually obtained by sun exposure but at the same time you must avoid sun exposure to prevent skin cancer. The answer? Very simple, very affordable and very safe, provided you do your due diligence, check it out with your doctor, etc. Vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) is readily available from many pharmacies and Internet suppliers. It does not need a prescription and does not cost an arm and a leg, either. Before you ask, PC and I get ours from an online company, (and I own no stock in that company, I am not paid one red cent from them in any fashion).

The article below from Reuters reflects much of what we have been saying on CLL Topics for several years. One of these days our government officials will actually get around to changing the out-dated recommended daily allowance of this important vitamin. We can only hope. Some links below that may help you recall useful Vitamin D3 facts.

Are You Dying to Get a Tan?;
Vitamin D3 Essential for Health;
Index to Vitamin D3 Articles on CLL Topics.

Be well,


Press Report:

Vitamin D cuts cancer risk in study of U.S. women

Fri Jun 8, 2007 2:31PM EDT

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Large doses of vitamin D may reduce the risk of cancer, according to a four-year U.S. study published on Friday involving nearly 1,200 women over the age of 55 in rural Nebraska. Women who took calcium and a dose of vitamin D almost three times the U.S. government's recommended daily intake for middle-aged adults saw a 60 percent lower incidence of all cancers than women not taking the vitamin, the study found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Joan Lappe, a Creighton professor of medicine who led the study, said vitamin D may be an effective way to guard against cancer but many people worldwide do not get enough of it. "I'm really very excited because I think the vitamin D deficiency issue is a major health concern that we need to address, and perhaps this will bring it to the forefront," Lappe said in a telephone interview. Lappe said additional research is needed to figure out whether the protective effect seen in the older white women also applied to men, younger women and other ethnic groups.

The American Cancer Society reacted cautiously, calling it a small study. Only 50 of the 1,179 women developed cancer, making broad conclusions difficult, said Dr. Michael Thun, who heads epidemiological research for the society. Thun said another weakness was that the researchers initially did not set out to examine the effect of vitamin D on cancer, but on bone health in post-menopausal women. "The results are provocative" but not sufficient for the society to recommend people take vitamin D supplements to ward off cancer, Thun said in a telephone interview.

A number of studies have found protective properties from higher intake of vitamin D for cancers and other ailments. For example, other researchers in December found people with higher levels of vitamin D had a lower risk of multiple sclerosis.


The body makes the vitamin after being exposed to sunlight. Not many foods are naturally rich in it. It is found in fatty fish such as salmon and milk commonly is fortified with it. Vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium necessary for healthy teeth and bones. It is also important to nerve cells, including the brain, and seems to act as a regulator of the immune system.

The women in the study were from a nine-county area of rural eastern Nebraska and had no known cancers for at least a decade before it began in 2000. They were broken into three groups, either getting 1,400 to 1,500 mg of a calcium supplement daily, getting that calcium plus 1,100 IU (international units) of vitamin D3, or getting placebos. After four years, 20 women in the placebo group got cancer, 17 in the calcium-only group got cancer and 13 in the vitamin D3 and calcium group got cancer.

Figuring some women may have entered the study with undiagnosed cancer, the researchers excluded the results in the first year and assessed only the final three. The findings became even more powerful, with the women getting calcium and vitamin D3 experiencing a 77 percent lower cancer risk. The researchers found no statistically significant difference in cancer risk for the groups getting calcium alone or placebos.



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