Vitamin D and colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers: A review of the epidemiological evidence

Elizabeth T. Jacobs, Lindsay N. Kohler, Andrew G. Kunihiro, Peter W. Jurutka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Over the past two decades, the question of whether vitamin D has a role in cancer incidence, progression, and mortality has been studied in detail. Colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers have been a particular area of focus; together, these three malignancies account for approximately 35% of cancer cases and 20% of cancer deaths in the United States, and as such are a major public health concern. Herein, we review and synthesize the epidemiological research regarding vitamin D, as measured by the biomarker 25-hydroxycholecalciferol [25(OH)D], and the incidence, progression, and mortality of these cancers. Overall, the results of observational studies of the relationship between 25(OH)D and colorectal cancer have revealed a consistent inverse association for incidence and mortality; while for breast cancer, results have generally demonstrated a relationship between higher 25(OH)D and lower risk for progression and mortality. In contrast, randomized, double-blind clinical trials conducted to date have generally failed to support these findings. For prostate cancer, there is no convincing evidence of an association between 25(OH)D and incidence, and inconsistent data for progression and mortality, though results of one open label clinical trial suggest that supplementation with 4000 IU/d of vitamin D3 may inhibit progression of the disease. Nonetheless, until the results of additional ongoing randomized, double-blind clinical trials are reported, it will be difficult to ascertain if vitamin D itself is related to a reduction in risk for some cancer endpoints, or whether high concentrations of the vitamin D biomarker 25(OH)D may instead serve as a marker for an overall beneficial risk factor profile.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-240
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cancer
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • 25(OH)D
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Vitamin D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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