Vitamin D and Gastrointestinal Cancers: A Narrative Review

Dig Dis Sci. 2019 May;64(5):1098-1109. doi: 10.1007/s10620-018-5400-1. Epub 2018 Dec 3.


Calcitriol (1,25(OH)2D3) performs various activities throughout the body. Although low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels are associated with several disease processes such as risk of fractures and falls, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus, recent evidence attests that this important hormone also regulates several cellular pathways involved in cancer development and progression. Calcitriol modulates several genes controlling gut physiology and calcium homeostasis and also maintains the integrity of epithelial barriers, regulates the absorption of phosphate and calcium, and modulates host defense against pathogens and inflammatory response by interplaying with several types of secretory and immune cells. Vitamin D deficiency is significantly related to increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. This deficiency can be prevented by vitamin D supplementation which is both economical and safe. This can lower the risk of developing cancer and also improve the prognosis of patients with gastrointestinal malignancy, but epidemiological data remain inconsistent. Several retrospective observational studies have demonstrated the benefits of vitamin D supplementation, but a few randomized controlled trials have not seemingly supported the beneficial role of vitamin D supplementation in gastrointestinal cancers. Therefore, in this literature review, we aimed to examine the possible role of vitamin D in gastrointestinal malignancies, including gastric, esophageal, pancreatic, hepatic, and colorectal cancers.

Keywords: 1,25(OH)2D3; Calcidiol; Calcitriol; Gastrointestinal cancer; VDR; Vitamin D; [25(OH)D].

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / blood
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology


  • Vitamin D