Low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of bladder cancer

Every day there is more evidence on the importance of maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. Among many other functions, vitamin D regulates the levels of calcium and phosphorus in our body. This is because its deficiency increases the risk of developing numerous diseases, including among others multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes or migraine. A new study led by researchers from the University of Warwick shows that having low level of vitamin D also increases the likelihood of having bladder cancer.

As explained by Rosemary Bland, director of this research presented at the 2016 Annual Conference of the Society of Endocrinology of the United Kingdom which was being held in Brighton, UK, “we still need more studies to evaluate this association, but the results of our work suggest that low levels of vitamin D in the blood can prevent bladder cells from responding adequately to abnormal cells. “

To carry out their study or meta-analysis, the authors reviewed the results obtained in seven clinical trials that assessed the possible association between vitamin D levels and the risk of developing bladder cancer. And according to the conclusions, it seems that the relationship is quite clear: in five of the seven papers it was observed that the deficiency of this vitamin increased the risk of tumor appearance.

Subsequently, researchers used a culture of transitional epithelial cells – that is, tissue that lines the bladder – and found that vitamin D plays a key role in activating these cells so that, among other functions activates the immune system. In other words, in the absence of vitamin D there is no immune response by the cells that make up the layer of transitional cells lining the bladder.

As Rosemary Bland points out, “this finding is important because the immune system can play essential role in cancer prevention by identifying abnormal cells before they give rise to tumor formation.”

In short, deficient levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, a type of tumor that is diagnosed in UK every year around 12,200 new cases – especially in men, where up to 10,700 of the new tumors per year, the bladder being the fourth most common type of tumor in the male population.

In this context, it should be remembered that the first source of vitamin D is sunlight, as well as that it is very difficult to achieve adequate levels of this vitamin through diet alone. One aspect that, although perhaps not so important in the countries that enjoy a good amount of sunlight, must be taken into account in other ‘darker’ regions of the planet. Not surprisingly, as the authors note, 60% of British adults have low levels of vitamin D, and up to 20% have a deficiency of this vitamin.

The good news is that, vitamin D is not only safe but also cheap, so its potential use for cancer prevention is exciting and could have an impact, at least potential, on lives of many people.