Vitamin D and cancer

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Dec;102(1-5):156-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.09.014.


1,25-dihydroxy Vitamin D [1,25-(OH)(2)D] exerts its effects via the vitamin D receptor (VDR) that belongs to the steroid/thyroid hormone receptor superfamily leading to gene regulation which results in various biological responses. Within the last two decades, the receptor has been shown to be present not only in classical target tissues such as bone, kidney and intestine but also in many other non-classical tissues. Besides the almost universal presence of VDRs, some cell types (e.g. keratinocytes, monocytes, bone, placenta) are capable of metabolizing 25-hydroxyvitamin D to 1,25(OH)(2)D by the enzyme 1alpha-hydroxylase (CYP27B1). The combined presence of 25(OH)D-1alpha-hydroxylase as well as the specific receptor in several tissues introduced the idea of a paracrine role for 1,25(OH)(2)D. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that 1,25(OH)(2)D can induce differentiation and inhibit proliferation of a wide variety of cell types. The molecular mechanisms behind this antiproliferative action is thoroughly explored but the whole picture is still difficult to understand. Important cell cycle regulators are involved such as cyclins, cyclin dependent kinases and their corresponding inhibitors as well as E2F transcription factors and accompanying pocket proteins. However the precise hierarchical structure of this wide diversity of actions of 1,25(OH)(2)D on genes influencing cell cycle progression is not firmly established nor do we understand which pathways are essential and which redundant. The antiproliferative action makes 1,25-(OH)(2)D and its analogs a possible therapeutic tool to treat hyperproliferative disorders, among which different types of cancer. This review focuses on the effects of 1,25(OH)(2)D and its analogs on cell proliferation, the results in in vivo experiments in Vitamin D deficient or resistant animals to cancer and the current epidemiological and intervention studies linking Vitamin D status or treatment and human cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Vitamin D