Study: Joint pain ebbs with vitamin D

KU doctor to report to symposium today

Sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D is hard to get without eating or drinking such items as milk or cereal, which usually are fortified with the vitamin.

Here’s a list of some other common natural sources of the important vitamin: Cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk and beef liver.

Sunlight also can be a source.

Sometimes, the side effects from chemotherapy are so bad that cancer patients wonder whether it’s even worth it.

Hair loss, weak immune systems, lack of energy and debilitating joint pain are all common symptoms of cancer treatment. But a doctor at Kansas University Medical Center thinks he has found an answer at least to the debilitating joint pain.

Dr. Qamar Khan, in a presentation at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium today, will show evidence that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D will go a long way toward reducing or eliminating joint pain.

“We’ve known for years that vitamin D is important for bones and protecting from rickets,” Khan said. “More and more over the past few years, people have been realizing that vitamin D may be more important than just preventing rickets.”

Khan put together a study that examined the vitamin D levels of breast cancer patients. He found, according to preliminary research, that about 75 percent of women who were about to undergo treatment had insufficient levels of vitamin D. He then administered vitamin D.

“Main result of the clinical study was that some women had less than optimal levels of vitamin D in their blood. And that their joint pain was reduced with more vitamin D,” Khan said.

Joint pain may not sound overly serious, but Lynn Marzinski, a registered nurse and coordinator of the Brandmeyer Patient Resource Center at Kansas University Hospital, said the joint pain can be absolutely terrible.

“It lasts for a few days,” she said. “Because we tell people not to take ibuprofen, Advil or Aleve, it really puts a crimp in what they can take. Sometimes the pain can be so bothersome it’s tough for them to move around.”

But Khan is encouraged that through his research, perhaps, vitamin D could help reduce those side effects. In addition to having less joint pain, Khan said, vitamin D supplements also seemed to decrease the amount of fatigue that patients experienced.

The research is preliminary, and Khan cannot conclusively determine that vitamin D is what reduces the amount of pain or fatigue, but he hopes to have more conclusive evidence in about six months.

Khan said he hoped to use a cancer network being developed in collaboration between KUMC, KU Hospital and other hospitals around the state, to do a full-on clinical trial of vitamin D and its effects on cancer patients.

“We’re in the process of designing the trial right now. Hopefully it will begin in about three months,” Khan said.

Regardless of whether vitamin D does, in fact, have the benefits that Khan suspects it does, he said there already was a take-away message from his research.

“Seventy-five percent of women have inadequate levels of vitamin D,” Khan said. “It’s very important in the prevention of osteoporosis.”

Khan said because of the dangerous effects of cancer treatment on bones, it’s imperative that all cancer patients be tested for vitamin D deficiency.