WSFA/NBC - Long heralded for its ability to help strengthen bones, vitamin D may have a new mission.
"This study strengthens the evidence that vitamin D may also help prevent colorectal cancer," said Marjorie McCullough with the American Cancer Society.
Cases of colorectal cancer have been increasing in recent years, especially among younger adults. It's the third most common cancer in the country.
A large new review of research from the American Cancer Society and other groups finds people who have higher blood levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
However, doctors say we don't yet have enough evidence to recommend taking higher doses of vitamin D for colon cancer prevention.
"We know a lot about how to prevent colorectal cancer in other ways as well maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active, not smoking, not drinking a lot of alcohol and also eating a healthy diet is important," said McCullough.
Sunlight is the easiest way for the body to absorb vitamin D but doctors warn against sunbathing, which increases the risk for skin cancer. Vitamin D is also found in some foods, fatty fish like salmon, cod liver oil, milk and fortified cereals and orange juice.
The American Cancer Society recently lowered the recommended age to begin colon cancer screening, from 50 to age 45.
More than 140,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer this year.