Parathyroid hormone may be a cancer promoter - an explanation for the decrease in cancer risk associated with ultraviolet light, calcium, and vitamin D

Med Hypotheses. 2000 Mar;54(3):475-82. doi: 10.1054/mehy.1999.0880.


Epidemiological studies reporting an inverse association between sunlight exposure and risk for cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate, have not yet been explained. Since ultraviolet (UV) light promotes dermal vitamin D generation, studies suggesting that dietary calcium and vitamin D may likewise have cancer-preventive activity are potentially of relevance. UV light, calcium, and vitamin D have the common property of suppressing parathyroid hormone (PTH) production; these considerations raise the possibility that PTH may have promotional activity for certain cancers. PTH might function indirectly in this regard, by increasing hepatic production of the progression growth factor IGF-I, a likely cancer promoter. A more direct role is suggested by recent evidence that many cancers express receptors for PTH/PTH-related protein; these receptors mediate co-mitogenic and/or pro-invasive signals in some cancers. High risk for previous or concurrent neoplasms has been reported in patients with parathyroid adenomas. In light of the increase in cancer risk associated with hypertension, it is notable that PTH levels are typically increased in salt-sensitive hypertensives. Prospective case-control studies examining serum PTH in relation to subsequent cancer risk appear warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / administration & dosage*
  • Carcinogens*
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism / complications
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / biosynthesis
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Parathyroid Hormone / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*


  • Carcinogens
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Vitamin D
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Calcium