Vitamin D, Inflammation, and Colorectal Cancer Progression: A Review of Mechanistic Studies and Future Directions for Epidemiological Studies

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 Dec;24(12):1820-8. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0601. Epub 2015 Sep 22.


Survival from colorectal cancer is positively associated with vitamin D status. However, whether this association is causal remains unclear. Inflammatory processes may link vitamin D to colorectal cancer survival, and therefore investigating inflammatory markers as potential mediators may be a valuable next step. This review starts with an overview of inflammatory processes suggested to be involved in colorectal cancer progression and regulated by vitamin D. Next, we provide recommendations on how to study inflammatory markers in future epidemiologic studies on vitamin D and colorectal cancer survival. Mechanistic studies have shown that calcitriol-active form of vitamin D-influences inflammatory processes involved in cancer progression, including the enzyme cyclooxygenase 2, the NF-κB pathway, and the expression of the cytokines TNFα, IL1β, IL6, IL8, IL17, and TGFβ1. Based on this and taking into account methodologic issues, we recommend to include analysis of specific soluble peptides and proteins, such as cytokines, in future epidemiologic studies on this issue. Vitamin D and the markers should preferably be measured at multiple time points during disease progression or recovery and analyzed using mediation analysis. Including these markers in epidemiologic studies may help answer whether inflammation mediates a causal relationship between vitamin D and colorectal cancer survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*


  • Vitamin D