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More on cancer


Vitamin D
James Watson Scientist
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The latest thing that excited me is I was in San Francisco in a lecture before community oncologists, the ones where, you know, clinics in more isolated regions where there's not a big hospital or a big cancer hospital where most people are treated when they get breast cancer. And so one of the doctors was from Olympia in Washington seemed focused on vitamin D and asked me how much I was taking. And I said, feeling, you know, really 2000 units a day which has been increased twice with recommendation. Vitamin D, unlike vitamin C, really does seem to have anti-cancer effects. I don't know - there is a mechanism. I should know it, but it's not easily available. But he said I should be taking 50,000 once a week and that there is some evidence that people - the chance of recurrence of either breast or colon cancer is related to how much vitamin D you have. Now, I've been probably always been low in vitamin D because having Scotch-Irish ancestry I got a skin cancer in my 20s. I tried to avoid, you know, stopped wearing shorts, stopped playing tennis in midday or anything like that. And so it's very easy to be deficient in vitamin C. And the people who are really most at risk are those with dark skins, so - which have been adapted for the tropics where you need very dark skin so you don't get skin cancer, but that means you've got to stay in the sun longer than if you have white skin to make the same amount of vitamin D. And it could be the explanation of why there's a higher cancer frequency - most cancers have higher frequencies in blacks than white people. So you know, maybe just a vitamin D supplement which essentially causes no cancer could help a lot of people who are trying to avoid the sun.

American molecular biologist James Dewey Watson is probably best known for discovering the structure of DNA for which he was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. His long career has seen him teaching at Harvard and Caltech, and taking over the directorship of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. From 1988 to 1992, James Watson was head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health. His current research focuses on the study of cancer.

Listeners: Walter Gratzer Martin Raff

Walter Gratzer is Emeritus Professor of Biophysical Chemistry at King's College London, and was for most of his research career a member of the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council. He is the author of several books on popular science. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard and has known Jim Watson since that time

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2008 and October 2009

Date story went live: 18 June 2010