Can vitamin D deficiency cause colon cancer? Researchers found that women under 50 with a total vitamin D intake of more than 300 IU per day had a significantly reduced risk of early onset colorectal cancer
We all recognize the importance of vitamin D in keeping the body healthy. In some ways, vitamin D is unique, as it functions like a hormone when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B from sunlight. This exposure starts a chain reaction within the cell receptors of the body to ultimately produce vitamin D. In addition, vitamin D can be obtained from food sources, including fatty fish and fortified dairy products, as well as supplements.1 But can vitamin D deficiency cause colon cancer?
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, within the National Institutes of Health, vitamin D can provide seven important benefits to improve: Bone loss; cancer prevention; depression; type 2 diabetes; cardiovascular disease; weight loss; and multiple sclerosis.2
However, it can be difficult for many people to maintain sufficient vitamin D levels. As many as one billion people worldwide may have deficient levels of vitamin D. In the United States alone, an estimated 41% of adults are deficient, with even higher numbers in the Hispanic and African American populations (69% and 82%, respectively).3,4
Although health issues related to vitamin D deficiency are more common among those over the age of 50, some recent research has also found that younger adults can be at risk, specifically of developing either colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps. Let’s take a closer look at this research, as well as some of the implications for your adult patients under the age of 50.
Can vitamin D deficiency cause colon cancer? Risk for younger patients
A paper from earlier this year, in the journal Gastroenterology, reported on the association between vitamin D intake and the risk of early-onset colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps, diagnosed among women younger than 50.5 The authors used a large public health study to track the medical history of more than 94,000 women from 1991 to 2015. Within this group, a total of 111 cases of early-onset colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps was diagnosed.5
Every two years, all participants in the public health study answered questions about demographics, diet, lifestyle, and medical information. From these questionnaires, the researchers found that those women under 50 with a total vitamin D intake of more than 300 IU per day had a significantly reduced risk of early onset colorectal cancer, as compared to those with a lower vitamin D intake.
Furthermore, an intake of more than 400 IU per day significantly reduced their risk of developing precancerous polyps. The risk for developing either colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps was reduced by as much as 50%.5
Although the researchers noted that their study subjects were all white females, future research should expand to other demographics as a means to offset the development of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps. At the very least, their findings would seem to point toward recommending increasing vitamin D intake, in the form of both food and nutritional supplements, to protect against the development of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps.
Can vitamin D deficiency cause colon cancer? These recommendations, along with a regular exercise routine and changes in lifestyle and overall diet, may not only benefit younger patients already at risk of developing colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps, but could also be used as part of the overall colorectal screening process.
- Chauhan K, Shahrokhi M, Huecker MR. Vitamin D (Updated July 11, 2021). In: StatPearls (Internet). Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.
- Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Updated Aug. 17, 2021. Accessed Oct.13, 2021.
- Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D deficiency (Updated July 11, 2021). In: StatPearls (Internet). Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.
- Parva NR, Tadepalli S, Singh P, et al. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and associated risk factors in the US population (2011-2012). Cureus. 2018;10(6):e2741.
- Kim H, Lipsyc-Sharf M, Zong X, et al. Total vitamin D intake and risks of early-onset colorectal cancer and precursors. Gastroenterology. 2021;161(4):1208-1217.