The miraculous effects of vitamin D could not stay hidden from the world for longer. From locking calcium in the bones to aiding in the digestion of food, the Cholecalciferol, popularly known as Vitamin D3, offers sufficient advantages to the body. Absorbing in more of this vitamin (in required quantity) could make one stay energetic throughout the day and assist in the prevention of various diseases. Have you ever heard vitamin D could help in treating cancer too?
Here, we shall try to unveil the relation between vitamin D and cancer and its efficacy in prevention and treatment.

Role of Vitamin D in cancer prevention
There have been clues from previous research studies that the prognosis of cancer was better in humans who had an abundance of vitamin D. It’s a known fact that vitamin D is produced on exposure to sunlight. However, those who do not get enough of it suffer its deficiency. Thus, Individuals dwelling near the northern latitudes get minimal sunlight and are at a higher risk of developing cancer. Contrary to this, people staying in the southern latitudes or near the equator experience higher exposure to sunlight. Hence, they are found to be less prone to cancer.
Let’s have a look at what makes vitamin D capable of preventing cancer:

  • VDR or the Vitamin D Receptor is also a transcription factor that looks after the expression and regulation of various genes. VDR is essentially responsible for actions such as growth arrest, differentiation of cells, or the initiation of apoptosis. Due to such properties, vitamin D is regarded as one of the chemopreventive agents for breast cancer. The VDR gene is generally expressed in the mammary glands, where its functions are highly significant when abnormal cell growth or proliferation occurs. Also, studies suggest that vitamin D reduces the chances of breast cancer development in animals.
  • Vitamin D is credible for causing differential changes in the blood cells during hematopoiesis. Also, it takes part in the differentiation of adult stem cells in tissues that regenerate rapidly. A decrease in the level of Vitamin D could affect the development of different body cells, preventing them from undergoing complete differentiation, resulting in uncontrolled cancerous cells. Adequacy of vitamin D would never interfere with cell development and differentiation; thus, the risk of leukemias, lymphomas, and colorectal cancer could reduce significantly.

Role of Vitamin D in cancer therapies

Vitamin D is regarded as a prohormone that requires stimulations to get converted into the steroid hormone called calcitriol. However, there are ample studies associated with the usefulness of calcitriol in the prevention and cure of cancer.

Let’s have a look at the various mechanism of action by which calcitriol strives at curbing cancer:

  • Causing Apoptosis
    Calcitriol works in a few ways to activate the process of apoptosis (programmed cell death) to cause the killing of malignant cells. In some cases, it activates the intrinsic pathway, disrupting mitochondrial functions releasing cytochromes and other reactive oxygen metabolites to induce apoptosis. While sometimes, it could also suppress the anti-apoptotic protein and activate the pro-apoptotic protein to cause apoptosis. Further, calcitriol directly activates caspases (an enzyme) to induce apoptotic processes for some cells.
  • Inhibition of cell differentiation
    Calcitriol has the potential to induce the arrest of the cell cycle, hence preventing the cell’s differentiation and development. This way, many of the proliferating malignant cells could be impeded by calcitriol. In addition, inhibiting the tumor cells in the initial growth cycle stage does not let them develop and differentiate. Also, some studies suggest that calcitriol indirectly controls cell growth by holding the expression and the activity of critical factors responsible for the development of cancerous cells.
  • Inhibition of Angiogenesis
    Angiogenesis is a biological process that leads to new blood vessels from the existing ones. This process is probably essential for the progression and metastasis of cancerous cells. Also, in some experimental models, it has been found that calcitriol is responsible for inhibiting the induction of angiogenesis on tumor cells. Calcitriol is known for directly exerting the anti-proliferative effect on the cancerous endothelial cells by obstructing angiogenesis.
  • Inducing anti-inflammatory effect
    The inflammatory cells connected to cancer are usually found near the tumor site. In some recent studies, it’s been found that calcitriol controls a transcription factor that is responsible for the expression of essential genes, especially the ones associated with immune response, the proliferation of cells, and inflammation. So calcitriol, in a way, has also been associated with playing a crucial role in controlling the process that initiates from inflammation proceeding to carcinogenesis.
  • Reduction of invasion and metastasis
    In some studies, researchers found that calcitriol played a vital role in reducing the degree of invasiveness and metastasis (the process of spread of tumor cells from the site of origin to other body parts) of many cancerous cells associated with prostate and lung cancer.

The valid discrepancy
Though Vitamin D helps prevent and assist in curing most cancers, it is vital to be aware of its drawbacks. The sun’s rays are the natural source of Vitamin D. However, getting exposure to the sun’s rays for a more extended period without proper clothing or sunscreen lotion could increase the risk of some types of skin cancer and skin aging due to exposure to UV rays. Long-term sun exposure has been linked to developing certain types of skin cancer, aging, suppressed immunity, and eye diseases like cataracts & macular degeneration. Moreover, it’s worthy of remembering that anything above its permissible limit prompts unfavorable outcomes.

A diet rich in vitamin D and fibrous foods, combined with a healthy lifestyle, could suffice to prevent an individual from cancer. Also, one cannot solely rely on vitamin D to cure cancer as no notable studies exist to support this concept firmly. Unfortunately, too much vitamin D in the body is also not good and results in health complications. However, it is possible to embrace the benefits of this vitamin, including the ones relating to cancer prevention and treatment, for prosperous overall health under the guidance of a registered medical practitioner.


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