Obesity and increased risk of cancer: does decrease of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level with increasing body mass index explain some of the association?

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Aug;54(8):1127-33. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200900512.


Low levels of vitamin D and excess body weight are both factors associated with increased risk of cancer. The increased risk seems to be proportional to the increase in BMI, and to decrease in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) level. Our earlier investigations suggest that serum 25(OH)D levels decrease with increasing BMI. Although the connection between cancer risk, BMI and vitamin D status might be arbitrary, it has not been discussed in the literature so far. In this study, we analyze data published in current meta-analysis, prospective studies, and systematic reviews on cancer-specific risk attributed to high BMI and low vitamin D status. The contribution of low 25(OH)D levels associated with high BMI to increased cancer risk was calculated for 13 vitamin-D-sensitive cancers with a focus on colorectal and breast cancer as the most frequently studied vitamin-D-sensitive cancer types. Our study suggests that a low vitamin D status may explain at least 20% of the cancer risk attributable to high BMI. The contribution of low 25(OH)D to the increased cancer risk with increasing BMI may be different for different cancer types. Thus, we find 40% for breast cancer, and 26 and 75% for colorectal cancer in men and women, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D 2 / blood*
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Calcifediol / blood*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / complications
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D 2
  • Calcifediol