Dr. Michael F. Holick, Ph.D., M.D.
Dr. Michael F. Holick

Cancer and Vitamin D

Posted by admin on November 27, 2008 under Cancer, Vitamin D | 8 Comments to Read



As early as 1941, it was observed that people living at higher latitude were at higher risk of dying of cancer.  In the 1980’s and the 1990’s, several reports surfaced revealed that living at higher latitude and being at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency increased risk of developing and dying of cancers of the colon, rectum, prostate, breast, ovary.  More recently, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risk of developing many other cancers including cancer of the esophagus, pancreas and leukemia.  Women in the Women’s Health Initiative that evaluated the effect of calcium and vitamin D on risk of developing colorectal cancer revealed that women who were vitamin D deficient and followed for eight years had a 253% increase risk of developing colorectal cancer.  These data are also supported by a recent observation by Lappe et al who reported that women ingesting 1,100 IU of vitamin D and 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day reduced overall risk of developing cancer by almost 70%.  


Grant, W.B., Lower vitamin-D production from solar ultraviolet-B Irradiance may explain some differences in cancer survival rates.  Journal of the National Medical Association.  2006; 98(3):357-64.

Gorham ED, Garland CF, Garland FC, Grant WB, Mohr SB, Lipkin M, Newmark HL, Giovannucci E, Wei M, Holick MF.  Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer.  J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol  2005; 97(1-2):179-194.  


Holick, M.F.  2006.  High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health.  Mayo Clin. Proc.  81(3):353-373.  

Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney  RP.  Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk:  results of a randomized trial.  Am J Clin Nutr  2007; 85(6):1586-1591.

  • Elaine Green said,

    What a great article. And what a revelation it is to know just how important a role vitamin D plays in so many ailments. I have taken Dr Holick’s wonderful analysis to heart, for myself and my family, two members of which have prostrate and bone cancer. Thank you for this very informative information!

    Elaine Green

  • Victor A. Postic said,

    Thank you. Cheers!
    Victor Postic
    p.s. The comment I had just finished writing “disappeared” — I hope it arrived. I’m the 70-Y.O. post hip replacement k-12 Special Education Substitute Teacher, 30-Years Navy Veteran. Vit-D severely deficient and anemic. (all this was in my comment)

  • Shan Eris said,

    It would be very helpful to know how vitamin D3 supplements should be best taken. Time of day? With food, (oily?) or on an empty stomach? With antioxidants? Other vitamins (vitamin A) and minerals interfering?

    I have been informed that it is a good idea to keep magnesium levels high, to prevent calcium from being deposited in the arteries, rather than on the bones, and would be highly interested in your advice in this matter.

  • Vitamin d3 said,

    Really this is very informative post about vitamin-d3. I like your blog,Totally interesting also extraordinary blog. Give more Information related to this topic.Thanks for sharing this.

  • Giacomo Caracciolo said,

    Hi Doc I need to know if a supplementation of ViTD3, one caps with 2500 UI ever two days, is a good integration of diet for prevent skin cancer (in particular melanoma)? If melanoma has been alredy diagnosticated is really need the supplementation of VitD3? Thanks

  • admin said,

    Dear Giacomo,
    I am not aware of any evidence that vitamin D supplementation reduces risk for skin cancer including melanoma. I recommend to my patients that they take 2000-3000 IUs of vitamin D daily.

  • Alvin said,

    I had severe and strange psoriasis last year that suddenly came all over my body. my finger nails grew out split was on of the symptoms. I cured myself through aggressive dietary changes going to all vegetables, and slowly added meat back into my diet.
    I have been taking vitamin D as part of my process have been taking about 10000 a day for 1-2 months, after reading your book I suddenly got scared about vitamin D due to a dark spot growing down the center of my thumb nail. Looking this up it appears that its very possible its melanoma. I am scared about vitamin d now because maybe by increasing my level so fast it is causing melanoma? I know vitamin D is intimatly linked to melanin so it makes sense to me that it could spark something to go haywire in this area when vit d is increased rapidly…. I am going to have it checked by a dermatologist. it’s in teh fingernail that was growing out split at one time, but this dark spot is much wider than the split was. I am scared that I am back to square one fighting an incurable disease on my own. I cured psoriasis on my own, and just getting over that I dont’ want to go through this agian. I am considering stopping vit d supplements for the time being.

  • admin said,

    Dear Alvin,
    Vitamin D receptors are present in melanocytes and melanoma cells. The active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, inhibits melanoma cell growth in culture. There is no evidence that vitamin D increases risk for melanoma. You should definitely see a dermatologist.

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