Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a brutal disease. And the standard treatment usually calls for waiting until the symptoms to get bad enough so you can start chemotherapy. But according to a major new study, you don't have to play this helpless waiting game. You can help control the progression of the disease with the help of vitamin D.

For the study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic and University of Iowa recruited 390 patients recently diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. First off, they checked the patients' blood levels for plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

They found that roughly 30 percent of the patients were deficient in vitamin D (levels lower than 25 nanograms per milliliter). Then the researchers checked back in on all the patients three years later.

Unfortunately, the disease progressed much faster in those deficient in vitamin D.

In fact, patients low in the vitamin had a 66 percent greater risk of disease progression during that time compared to their counterparts. Plus, they had more than double the risk of dying.

According to Dr. Shanafelt, lead researcher for the study, "This tells us that vitamin D insufficiency may be the first potentially modifiable risk factor associated with prognosis in newly diagnosed chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This finding may be particularly relevant for this kind of leukemia because although we often identify it at an early stage, the standard approach is to wait until symptoms develop before treating patients with chemotherapy. This watch and wait approach
is difficult for patients because they feel there is nothing they can do to help themselves."

So if you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, show your oncologist this study. It was published on November 3, 2010 in the journal Blood. Once he gives you the okay, start taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. It's the form of vitamin D best absorbed in the body. Plus, though the study was limited to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, I strongly anyone struck with cancer to take extra vitamin D.