The role of vitamin D in reducing cancer risk and progression

Nat Rev Cancer. 2014 May;14(5):342-57. doi: 10.1038/nrc3691. Epub 2014 Apr 4.


Vitamin D is not really a vitamin but the precursor to the potent steroid hormone calcitriol, which has widespread actions throughout the body. Calcitriol regulates numerous cellular pathways that could have a role in determining cancer risk and prognosis. Although epidemiological and early clinical trials are inconsistent, and randomized control trials in humans do not yet exist to conclusively support a beneficial role for vitamin D, accumulating results from preclinical and some clinical studies strongly suggest that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing cancer and that avoiding deficiency and adding vitamin D supplements might be an economical and safe way to reduce cancer incidence and improve cancer prognosis and outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Calcitriol / physiology*
  • Cholecalciferol / physiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Endocrine System
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Prognosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk
  • Signal Transduction
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / physiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D3 24-Hydroxylase


  • Vitamin D
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Steroid Hydroxylases
  • Vitamin D3 24-Hydroxylase
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase
  • Calcitriol