Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing bladder cancer, according to a study presented this week.
Vitamin D, which is produced by the body through exposure to sunshine and consumption of fatty fish and egg yolks, helps the body to control calcium and phosphate levels. Previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, autoimmune conditions and cancer.
In Britain, one in five adults are vitamin D deficient and three in five have insufficient levels. The researchers reviewed seven studies on vitamin D deficiency. They found that five out of the seven studies linked low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
In a separate clinical experiment, it was found that the cells that line the bladder, known as transitional epithelial cells, are able to activate and respond to vitamin D, which in turn can stimulate an immune response.
The study’s lead author, Dr Rosemary Bland, said: ‘More clinical studies are required to test this association, but our work suggests that low levels of vitamin D in the blood may prevent the cells within the bladder from stimulating an adequate response to abnormal cells.
‘As vitamin D is cheap and safe, its potential use in cancer prevention is exciting and could potentially impact on the lives of many people.’
The research, by researchers at the University of Warwick, was presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference.
Vitamin D deficiency is an underdiagnosed and undertreated problem, to the point where earlier this year the government suggested that regular vitamin D supplements should be routinely taken during the winter months.
Lack of Vitamin D can cause bone weakness as well as many other potential symptoms that have been linked to it but this analysis of seven separate studies found that five of them linked low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of bladder cancer. The reason may be that the cells that line the bladder are able to respond to vitamin D and trigger an immune response against cell changes.
This is ongoing research but adds to the steadily growing evidence that taking a regular vitamin D supplement may now be sensible for a number of reasons.