Low Vitamin D Linked to Aggressive Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer association with vitamin D deficiency may be greater in African American men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The health effects of vitamin D has been a popular topic of research in recent years. Now, a new study suggests that low vitamin D levels may be a warning sign for one form of cancer.

This new study found a significant link between vitamin D deficiency and increased odds of aggressive prostate cancer at the time of the biopsy (surgical removal of tissue).

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This study was led by Adam B. Murphy, MD, MBA, assistant professor in the Department of Urology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. Murphy and colleagues looked at 667 men who were undergoing their first prostate biopsy between the ages of 40 and 79. The participants were from one of five urology centers in the Chicago area and were recruited after abnormal prostate biopsy results.

The participants' vitamin D levels were tested at the time they were recruited between 2009 and 2013. The participants consisted of 273 African-American men and 275 European-American men, with 168 members of each group diagnosed with prostate cancer after their biopsy.

The research team specifically measured 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH D), which they considered the most accurate way to measure the participants' vitamin D levels. The range considered normal for 25-OH D is 30 to 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).

“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,” Dr. Murphy said in a press release.

The data showed European-American men had a 3.66 times greater chance of having aggressive prostate cancer if their 25-OH D levels dropped below 12 ng/ml at the time of biopsy compared to men with normal levels.

African-American men with levels below 12 ng/ml of 25-OH D were 4.89 times more likely to have aggressive prostate cancer than their normal level counterparts.

The researchers found that overall, African-American men had lower levels of 25-OH D, with an average of 16.7 ng/ml, compared with European-American men who averaged 19.3 ng/ml.

The analysis also showed that African-American men had a 2.43 times greater chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer if their 25-OH D levels were below 20 ng/ml.

“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,” Dr. Murphy said.

The authors concluded that vitamin D deficiency was positively associated with prostate cancer diagnosis at the time of biopsy.

The authors acknowledged that their study was limited by one-time serum measurements that may not be representative of a chronic vitamin D deficiency.

This study was published May 1 in Clinical Cancer Research.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Defense.

The authors made no disclosures.

Review Date: 
May 1, 2014
Last Updated:
May 2, 2014