Vitamin D in the cancer patient

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Purpose of review

To briefly review recent work within the vitamin D and cancer field, whereas also providing context relating how these findings may impact clinical care and future research efforts.

Recent findings

Vitamin D has now been convincingly shown both in vitro and in preclinical animal models to alter the differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis of cancer cells. Whether vitamin D prevents cancer in humans or limits cancer progression, however, remain open questions. Epidemiologic and observational data relating circulating 25(OH)D levels and cancer risk suggest an inverse relationship for most cancers including breast, colorectal, leukemia and lymphoma, and prostate, although for each malignancy there also exist studies that have failed to demonstrate such an inverse relationship. Likewise, a more recent report failed to confirm a previously reported association of increased pancreatic cancer risk in patients with higher 25(OH)D levels. A large prospective study in which patients aged at least 50 years receive 2000 IU vitamin D3 daily for 5 years, with cancer as a primary endpoint, has recently been launched.


Although much effort has attempted to delineate a causal relationship between vitamin D and a wide array of human cancers, we await large-scale randomized controlled trial data for definitive answers.

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