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According to the American Cancer Society, black men are 60% more likely than white men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, and are more than twice as likely to die from the disease. Black men are also diagnosed at a younger age (about 3 years younger on average) and are more likely to have “high grade” tumors – the kind of tumors that grow rapidly, spread to other parts of the body, and often cause death.

Could vitamin D play a part in this? A new study says…perhaps.

Per new research, not only are low levels of vitamin D linked to more aggressive and advanced cases of prostate cancer in men, black men with low vitamin D levels were more likely than those with normal levels to test positive for cancer after a prostate biopsy.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, suggests that vitamin D may play an important role in how prostate cancer starts and spreads, although it does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Researchers also aren’t yet sure if taking extra vitamin D may help prevent prostate cancer.

“We really don’t know, for certain, what role vitamin D plays in cancer — Vitamin D seems to regulate normal differentiation of cells as they change from stem cells to adult cells. And it regulates the growth rate of normal cells and cancer cells,” said study author Dr. Adam Murphy, an assistant professor of urology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

Researchers also don’t know if lower vitamin D levels may help to explain why black men are at higher risk for prostate cancer in the first place.

5 Ways To Boost Your Prostate Health

According to Men’s Fitness, there are several steps men should take to help improve their prostate health and lower the risk of prostate cancer:

  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day (such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and  watermelons).
  • Let your doctor know if you have a family history of prostate cancer. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles the risk of developing the disease.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Selenium helps reduce prostate cancer risks, so eat more selenium-rich foods (such as wheat germ, tuna, shellfish, eggs, cashews, garlic and onions).
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin D, including fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna or trout),portobello mushrooms, fortified foods (such as milk, orange juice or cereal), egg yolks and cod liver oil.
  • Get a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam annually, beginning at age 50. Men at high risk, including black men or men with a strong family history of prostate cancer, should begin testing at age 40-45.