Background: It is estimated that 20% of all cancer cases are caused by obesity. Vitamin D is thought to be one of the mechanisms underlying this association. This review aims to summarise the evidence for the mediating effect of vitamin D on the link between obesity and cancer.
Methods: Three literature searches using PubMed and Embase were conducted to assess whether vitamin D plays an important role in the pathway between obesity and cancer: (1) obesity and cancer; (2) obesity and vitamin D; and (3) vitamin D and cancer. A systematic review was performed for (1) and (3), whereas a meta-analysis including random effects analyses was performed for (2).
Results: (1) 32 meta-analyses on obesity and cancer were identified; the majority reported a positive association between obesity and risk of cancer. (2) Our meta-analysis included 12 original studies showing a pooled relative risk of 1.52 (95% CI: 1.33-1.73) for risk of vitamin D deficiency (<50 nmol/L) in obese people (body mass index>30 kg/m2). (3) 21 meta-analyses on circulating vitamin D levels and cancer risk were identified with different results for different types of cancer.
Conclusion: There is consistent evidence for a link between obesity and cancer as well as obesity and low vitamin D. However, it seems like the significance of the mediating role of vitamin D in the biological pathways linking obesity and cancer is low. There is a need for a study including all three components while dealing with bias related to dietary supplements and vitamin D receptor polymorphisms.