Author(s): Minu M Ali, V Vaidya
Vitamin D, a fat-soluble prohormone is synthesized in response to sunlight. Experimental evidence suggests that vitamin D may reduce the risk of cancer through regulation of cellular proliferation and differentiation as well as inhibition of angiogenesis. These anticancer properties have been attributed primarily to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH) 2 D] (calcitriol), the hormonal form of vitamin D. Extensive research has shown that cells, including cancer cells, express specific receptors (VDR) for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. When bound to the VDR, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D regulates >60 genes that exert prodifferentiating, antiproliferative and antimetastatic effects on cells, including effects on cell cycle. The amount of exposure to the sun has been found to correlate inversely with cancer mortality and survival in numerous epidemiological studies. An inverse relationship between solar ultraviolet-B (UV-B) exposure and non-skin cancer mortality has long been reported. Several ecological studies suggest that sunlight may protect against prostate, colon, rectal, female breast and ovarian cancer, all diseases that contribute to a substantially higher proportion of cancer mortality in the western industrialized world. Some analytical studies also suggest a protective association between circulating vitamin D in blood, which is largely derived from sunlight, or dietary vitamin D. Paricalcitol (calcitriol analogue) is as effective as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D in transactivating the prostatic VDR and in inhibiting the growth of prostate cancer cell lines and primary cultures of prostate cancer cells in vitro. Promising preclinical evaluations of calcitriol and analogues have appeared in prostate cancer animal models.