Vitamin D in Head and Neck Cancer: a Systematic Review

Curr Oncol Rep. 2020 Nov 20;23(1):5. doi: 10.1007/s11912-020-00996-7.


Purpose of review: Observational studies have shown that serum 25-OH vitamin D [25(OH)D] is inversely associated with overall cancer risk in many malignancies. We performed a systematic literature review to determine whether vitamin D deficiency is related to head and neck cancer (HNC) etiology and outcome.

Recent findings: The search yielded five prospective studies reporting 25(OH)D levels prior to cancer diagnosis and their effect on the risk of HNC. Eight studies were cross-sectional or case-control studies, in which 25(OH)D levels were only measured after cancer diagnosis. Two studies found an inverse association between 25(OH)D level and HNC risk, while two other prospective cohort studies demonstrated no connection between 25(OH)D and HNC risk. Several studies reported cancer patients to have significantly lower 25(OH)D levels than controls. Associations between 25(OH)D and prognosis and mortality were variable. The link between vitamin D and HNC has so far only been investigated in a few observational, prospective, and case-control studies. Vitamin D deficiency may be more common in HNC patients than in the healthy population. There is no evidence for a causal relationship. Further studies are needed to evaluate whether low 25(OH)D concentrations play a role in the development or outcome of HNCs.

Keywords: Carcinoma; Deficiency; Etiology; Malignancy; Radiotherapy; Surgery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / complications*
  • Humans
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*


  • Vitamin D