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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Vitamin D and Cancer Risk

DCEG researchers in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) have been at the forefront of research into the association between vitamin D and cancer risk. While experimental data demonstrate a range of anti-carcinogenic effects for vitamin D, the epidemiological evidence has been inconsistent. MEB research includes prospective analyses of vitamin D status, as measured by circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], the accepted biomarker of vitamin D status, and vitamin D binding protein, the major vitamin D transporter in circulation; vitamin D genetic score analyses; and cell culture experiments of biological mechanisms. In addition, MEB researchers have been examining vitamin D and prostate cancer risk in populations of African ancestry, an understudied group who are at particularly increased risk of prostate cancer. Our research has found that higher vitamin D status is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and possibly bladder cancer, and with higher risk of prostate cancer, with no association for most other cancer sites, including breast cancer.

MEB researchers have played integral roles in several large collaborative pooling projects investigating vitamin D-cancer associations. For example, the Vitamin D Pooling Project of Rarer Cancers showed no association between circulating 25(OH)D within 10 cohorts and risk of cancers of the endometrium, kidney, ovary, stomach, or esophagus, or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but did show significantly elevated pancreatic cancer risk with circulating 25(OH)D greater than 100 nmol/L. The Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium found no association between 25(OH)D and lung cancer risk in 20 cohorts. MEB researchers are also involved with lead roles in other pooling projects examining vitamin D, including the Circulating Biomarkers and Breast and Colorectal Cancer Consortium and the Endogenous Hormones and Nutritional Biomarkers Prostate Cancer Consortium.

For more information, contact Demetrius Albanes.

Metabolic Epidemiology Branch - Research Areas