Differences in vitamin D status may account for unexplained disparities in cancer survival rates between African and white Americans

Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Apr 1;4(2):85-94. doi: 10.4161/derm.19667.


Considerable disparities in cancer survival rates exist between African Americans (AAs) and white Americans (WAs). Various factors such as differences in socioeconomic status (SES), cancer stage at time of diagnosis, and treatment-which this analysis considers primary explanatory factors-have accounted for many of these differences. An additional factor not usually considered is vitamin D. Previous studies have inversely correlated higher solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) doses and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations with incidence and/or mortality rates for about 20 types of cancer and improved survival rates for eight types of cancer. Because of darker skin pigmentation, AAs have 40% lower serum 25(OH)D concentrations than WAs. This study reviews the literature on disparities in cancer survival between AAs and WAs. The journal literature indicates that there are disparities for 13 types of cancer after consideration of SES, stage at diagnosis and treatment: bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, rectal, testicular, and vaginal cancer; Hodgkin lymphoma and melanoma. Solar UVB doses and/or serum 25(OH)D concentrations have been reported inversely correlated with incidence and/or mortality rates for all of these cancers. This finding suggests that future studies should consider serum 25(OH)D concentrations in addressing cancer survival disparities through both measurements of serum 25(OH)D concentrations and increasing serum 25(OH)D concentrations of those diagnosed with cancer, leading to improved survival rates and reduced disparities.

Keywords: African-Americans; cancer survival; disparities; ultraviolet-B; vitamin D.