New research suggests taking vitamin D supplements could reverse the progression of low-grade prostate tumors, reducing the need for invasive therapies such as radiation and surgery.

In many cases of low-grade prostate tumors doctors prescribe "active surveillance" instead of treatments, because in these cases the effects of harsh radiation and painful surgeries are more dangerous than the tumor itself, the American Chemical Society reported.

Despite these suggestions from physicians, fear drives many men to undergo an elective prostatectomy. This surgery can cause severe side effects such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Following a biopsy, men was wait at least 60 days to receive a prostatectomy to allow inflammation to subside. Researchers gave men vitamin D during this 60 day waiting period to see if it would illicit an improvement in tumor severity. Past research has found an impressive 55 percent of men who took vitamin D showed a reduction in tumor severity or even complete disappearance compared to the year before.

In the study, 37 men undergoing elective prostatectomies were assigned to either to a group that received a daily dose of vitamin D or a placebo. The researchers observed many of the men who took vitamin D showed significant tumor improvement when compared with the participants who were given a placebo. Those who took vitamin D also showed changes in expression levels of many cell lipids and proteins associated with inflammation.

The findings suggest vitamin D could fight low grade prostate tumors by reducing inflammation, potentially preventing the need for radiation therapy and surgery.

"Cancer is associated with inflammation, especially in the prostate gland. Vitamin D is really fighting this inflammation within the gland," said Bruce Hollis, who is at the Medical University of South Carolina. 

The findings will be presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.