Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to aggressive prostate cancer

Vitamin D deficiency was an indicator of aggressive prostate cancer and spread of the disease in European-American and African-American men who underwent their first prostate biopsy because of abnormal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and/or digital rectal examination (DRE) test results, according to a study published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that is known to affect the growth and differentiation of benign and malignant prostate cells in prostate cell lines and in animal models of prostate cancer,” said Adam B. Murphy, M.D., MBA, assistant professor in the Department of Urology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “In our study, vitamin D deficiency seemed to be a predictor of aggressive forms of prostate cancer diagnosis in European-American and African-American men.

“The stronger associations in African-American men imply that vitamin D deficiency is a bigger contributor to prostate cancer in African-American men compared with European-American men,” added Murphy. “Vitamin D supplementation may be a relevant strategy for preventing prostate cancer incidence and/or tumor progression in prostate cancer patients.”

The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D we have in our body is to measure levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH D) in our blood. The normal range of 25-OH D is 30 to 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).

In this study, European-American and African-American men had 3.66 times and 4.89 times increased odds of having aggressive prostate cancer (Gleason grade of 4+4 or higher), respectively, and 2.42 times and 4.22 times increased odds of having tumor stage T2b or higher, respectively, if their 25-OH D levels were less than 12 ng/ml at the time of prostate biopsy. In addition, African-American men had 2.43 times increased odds of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, if their 25-OH D levels were less than 20 ng/ml.

Between 2009 and 2013, Murphy and colleagues enrolled 667 men, ages 40 to 79 years, who were undergoing their first prostate biopsy at one of five urology clinics in Chicago following an abnormal PSA or DRE. Serum 25-OH D levels were measured at recruitment. Of the study participants, 273 were African-American and 275 were European-American, and 168 men from each group had a prostate cancer diagnosis from their biopsy.

The researchers found that the mean 25-OH D levels were significantly lower among African-American men (16.7 ng/ml) compared with European-American men (19.3 ng/ml). The highest 25-OH D level was 71 ng/ml in European-American men, while it was only 45 ng/ml in African-American men.

They categorized the study group into those whose 25-OH D levels were less than 12 ng/ml, less than 16 ng/ml, less than 20 ng/ml, and less than 30 ng/ml, and found a dose-response relationship between tumor grade and vitamin D level for both European-American and African-American men, and the association held true even after adjusting for potential confounders including diet, smoking habits, obesity, family history, and calcium intake.

The researchers also found an association between lower 25-OH D levels and those at high and very high risk for prostate cancer, per National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) criteria, which take into account prediagnosis PSA levels, tumor stage, and Gleason grade.

While no association was found between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer diagnosis in European-American men, this association was significant in African-American men. Further, the association with disease aggressiveness and cancer spread was stronger for African-American men than for European-American men. Skin color, which determines cumulative vitamin D levels from exposure to sun, may partly explain the discrepancies observed between European-American and African-American men, explained Murphy.

“We will next evaluate genetic polymorphisms in the pathways of vitamin D metabolism to better understand the risk alleles underlying this association,” said Murphy. “Vitamin D deficiency seems to be important for general wellness and may be involved in the formation or progression of several human cancers. It would be wise to be screened for vitamin D deficiency and treated.”

Rick Kittles, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Illinois in Chicago, is a co-author and collaborator on this project.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.

15 thoughts on “Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to aggressive prostate cancer”

  1. Wow,this article has explained alot to me that i didn’t know.This means that prostate cancer can be prevented by having enough of vitamin D in our body.This research is going to play a huge role on reducing prostate cancer to men,i like the sound of this research because it sounds has if it wont be expensive.We are blessed to have such intelligent scientist.

  2. Who would have thought,that a mere thing as a vitamin can have detrimental consequences that could put one’s health in dander,so lets get all the vitamin D we need.

  3. This is a great site,which will turn out to be really helpful to the world population.Vitamin D abundance is dependant on the skin colour of a person,meaning light skinned peolpe are more prone to its deficiency thus to prostrate cancer

  4. This study is very interesting and I am sure that it will have a revolutionary effect on prostate cancer research of today. I found the fact that African-American men had a significant association between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer, while European-American men did not. I think it is because of the difference in skin colour, because vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight through the skin. But then there is also the question of nutritional imbalance. Maybe some men just don’t get all the nutritional value that they are supposed to and then suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Either way it is still a valid theory that vitamin D deficiency is directly linked to prostate cancer, because of accurate measurements— the vitamin D level, histology grade and tumour stage.

  5. This is an interesting article as it rises awareness to the alarming rate of prostate cancer in men.Johns Hopkins Medical now believes that up to 90% of prostate cancers are diet related.Making changes to your diet can significantly lower your risk of getting prostate disease by eating a “prostate friendly” diet.Prevention of prostate cancer means making lifestyle changes to lower your risk of the disease and although there is no one thing you can do to prevent prostate cancer experts have identified a number of risk factors and causes of prostate cancer.

    While no association was found between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer diagnosis in European-American men, this association was significant in African-AmerIcan men this shows that African-american men may be lacking proper nutrition

    It is clear that the skin colour, of a test subject, has a significant role in the amount of vitamin D in the test subject. Is it possible that although dark pigmented skin may absorb more UV, dark skin melanin is less effective at making vitamin D?

  6. Prostate cancer is mostly found in the UK and USA. Which someone can clearly see that this disease is mostly influenced by environmental factors, diets and lifestyle. However, scientists say that it is also genetically influenced and some say it is the lack of vitamin D. Well all this factors have a great possibility of being true, but the most common factor is the deficiency of vitamin D.

  7. This study is excellent given that firstly, it has three accurate measurements— the vitamin D level, histology grade and tumour stage; secondly, four potential confounders —diet, smoking, obesity and calcium intake—were controlled, eliminating the possibility of other factors affecting the outcome; and thirdly, it was able to demonstrate a dose-response relationship, thereby strengthening the argument of a cause-effect relationship between a vitamin-D deficiency and prostate cancer. However, one weakness of the study could be that a single vitamin-D level was recorded at the time of biopsy and this is not necessarily an indication of the level over years. The next step is to treat men with vitamin D deficiency with vitamin D and see if there is any effect on prostate cancer. This would prove cause and effect.
    Fellow bloggers, melanin—the dark pigment (absorbing ultraviolet light) in skin—acts as a natural sunscreen diminishing the effectiveness of vitamin D production in skin, which requires ultraviolet light for its formation.

  8. Prostate cancer it is find in man only,usually most man don’t like consulting to the doctors at an early stage when the cancer can still be knowing that prostate cancer can be prevented by vitamin D I think this will decrease the chance of men suffering from cancer

  9. The research on the correlation between cancer levels and the presence or probability of getting cancer is an interesting study. According to Cedric D. Garland et al, increasing ones minimum yearly serum 25(OH)D levels from 40 to 60 ng/mL will significantly decrease the chances of getting cancer for and individual.

    The research of the relationship between cancer and the circulation of serum 25(OH) levels may just be one of the breakthroughs needed in the prevention of cancer not only in African-American men but in all people. Although, some research shows that there is a correlation between serum 25(OH)D levels, Freedman M. D, et al states that their research shows that there is no correlation between the presence of cancer and low or high serum levels.

    Cancer Cause and Control (2005), states that the difference that vitamin D has is mostly seen in people who are either obese, overweight, African-American. People who are in these groups can therefore be advised to increase their vitamin D intake in order to avoid or reduce the risk of getting cancer.

  10. This study could have the potential to influence cancer research massively in changing the way in which scientists will go about performing their research as well as changing their thought processes. It is extremely interesting to note how this disease is able to affect certain race groups and not others when influenced by certain causal factors such as the deficiency of vitamin D. This study can then change the way in which we think about causal factors of this disease and causal factors that are unique to certain groups of people. Therefore, this concept can perhaps be applied to different variations of cancer and assist in researching them further.

  11. The researchers in this article has achieved a milestone in connecting prostate cancer and Vitamin D deficiency together, as it is one of the most feared cancers among men. In the question Jacques pointed out about darker skins absorbing more UV light, one would reckon darker skins having more Vitamin D. Although logically this might seem like the obvious answer, research has proved different. The reason for this is black skinned people do not achieve the optimal 25-hydroxavitamin D [25(OH)D] concentration, being healthy or not. This is due to the fact that pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin. This places them in a higher risk category for developing prostate cancer as well as other disorders. (Harris. S)

    The amount of sun exposure does not make a difference, whether it is in the summer or winter, because the vitamin D production stays the same. The best advice for black skinned males would be to take an extra supplement to increase their vitamin D levels.

    Vitamin D and African Americans, Harris. S, 2006.

  12. Cancer is one of the most malicious dread diseases around , a silent killer with little or no signs or symptoms. The fact that a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to prostate cancer is very scary because cancer treatment is expensive and the chances of survival are sometimes slim to none. One diagnosed with cancer the patient will ask , how long have I got , and fight it in the hopes of survival .
    Could we be taking the value of healthy diet and exercise lowly?

    Supplements can help in reducing the deficiency diseases but cancer has been known to be hereditary , from generation to generation .

  13. This is a very revolutionary study and can have huge repercussions on prostate cancer prevention and research. Prostate cancer is a disruptive and frightening disease that is most of the time not diagnosed until it is too late to treat. The idea that a simple Vitamin D supplement can possible prevent or lessen the effect of this cancer is very positive.
    It is clear that the skin colour, of a test subject, plays an important role in the amount of vitamin D in the test subject. Is it possible that although dark pigmented skin may absorb more UV, dark skin melanin is less effective at making vitamin D?
    Another important question is: What is the impact of environment on the Vitamin D levels in different skin pigments? This study was done in Chicago, but what impact might a different environment have on vitamin D levels in different skin pigments?
    Another factor that is somewhat confusing is the fact that there was no association between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer diagnoses in light pigmented people, but there was a link to aggressiveness of the tumour. However there is an association in dark pigmented people of both diagnosis and aggressiveness. Does anyone know why this might be so?
    The idea that screening for vitamin D deficiencies and prescribing a simple vitamin D supplement seems to be a very simple and inexpensive solution for the future.

  14. The blog is interesting and shows how skin colour contributes to prostate cancer as research shows, it makes people aware of the need of vitamin D to prevent the cancer [Murphy: 2014 ]

  15. This is a very interesting article. The fact that there are discrepancies in African-American and European-Americans’ Vitamin D levels is expected because of the obvious variation in skin colour. What doesn’t make sense is the fact that European-Americans have higher levels of Vitamin D compared to African-Americans.
    One would expect darker skinned people to absorb more UV and therefore produce more Vitamin D.

    Does anyone have any insight on this?

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