Effects of supplemental vitamin D and calcium on normal colon tissue and circulating biomarkers of risk for colorectal neoplasms

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2015 Apr;148:86-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.01.010. Epub 2015 Jan 15.


This brief review, based on an invited presentation at the 17th Workshop on Vitamin D, is to summarize a line of the author's research that has been directed at the intertwined missions of clarifying and/or developing vitamin D and calcium as preventive agents against colorectal cancer in humans, understanding the mechanisms by which these agents may reduce risk for the disease, and developing 'treatable' biomarkers of risk for colorectal cancer. The biological plausibility and observational and clinical trial evidence for vitamin D and calcium in reducing risk for colorectal neoplasms, the development of pre-neoplastic biomarkers of risk for colorectal neoplasms, and the clinical trial findings from the author's research group on the efficacy of vitamin D and calcium in modulating these biomarkers are summarized. Regarding the latter, we tested the efficacy of 800 IU (20μg) of vitamin D3 and 2.0g of calcium daily, alone and combined vs. placebo over 6 months on modulating normal colon tissue and circulating hypothesis-based biomarkers of risk for colorectal neoplasms in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 2×2 factorial design clinical trial (n=92). The tissue-based biomarkers were measured in biopsies of normal-appearing rectal mucosa using immunohistochemistry with quantitative image analysis, and a panel of circulating inflammation markers was measured using enzyme-linked immunoassays (ELISA). Statistically significant proportional tissue increases in the vitamin D group relative to the placebo group were found in bax (51%), p21 (141%), APC (48%), E-cadherin (78%), MSH2 (179%), the CaSR (39%), and CYP27B1 (159%). In blood, there was a 77% statistically significant decrease in a summary inflammation z-score. The findings for calcium were similar to those for vitamin D. These findings indicate that supplemental vitamin D3 or calcium can favorably modulate multiple normal colon tissue and circulating hypothesis-based biomarkers of risk for colorectal neoplasms in sporadic colorectal adenoma patients. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled '17th Vitamin D Workshop'.

Keywords: Biomarkers of risk; Calcium; Colorectal neoplasms; Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Colon / cytology
  • Colon / drug effects*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D