Low Vitamin D Levels May Be Linked to Increased Risk of Bladder Cancer

Key Points

  • Researchers reviewed 7 studies with 112 to 1,125 participants each. Five out of the seven studies linked low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
  • The investigators found that transitional epithelial cells that line the bladder are able to activate and respond to vitamin D, which in turn can stimulate an immune response.

Vitamin D deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of developing bladder cancer, according to a systematic review of seven studies presented at the Society for Endocrinology Annual Conference in Brighton, United Kingdom. Though further clinical studies are needed to confirm the findings, the study adds to a growing body of evidence on the importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels.

Previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, autoimmune conditions, and cancer. In countries with low levels of sunlight, it is difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from food alone. In the UK, 1 in 5 adults are vitamin D–deficient and 3 in 5 have low levels. This is especially prevalent in people with darker skin: In winter, 75% of dark-skinned people in the UK are vitamin D–deficient.

Study Findings

In this work, researchers from the University of Warwick and University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire investigated the link between vitamin D and bladder cancer risk. They reviewed 7 studies with 112 to 1,125 participants each. Five out of the seven studies linked low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of bladder cancer.

To validate their findings, the researchers then looked at the transitional epithelial cells that line the bladder and found that these cells are able to activate and respond to vitamin D, which, in turn, can stimulate an immune response. According to lead author Rosemary Bland, PhD, this is important because the immune system may have a role in cancer prevention by identifying abnormal cells before they develop into cancer.

“More clinical studies are required to test this association, but our work suggests that low levels of vitamin D in the blood may prevent the cells within the bladder from stimulating an adequate response to abnormal cells,” said Dr. Bland. “As vitamin D is cheap and safe, its potential use in cancer prevention is exciting and could potentially impact on the lives of many people.”

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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