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Ann Epidemiol. 2009 Feb;19(2):89-95. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2008.03.010. Epub 2008 May 27.

Vitamin D and pancreatic cancer.

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Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department Health Human Services, Rockville, MD, USA.


Sun exposure has been associated with lower death rates for pancreatic cancer in ecological studies. Skin exposure to solar ultraviolet B radiation induces cutaneous production of precursors to 25-hydroxy (OH) vitamin D (D) and is considered the primary contributor to vitamin D status in most populations. Pancreatic islet and duct cells express 25-(OH) D(3)-1alpha-hydroxylase that generates the biologically active 1,25-dihydroxy(OH)(2) D form. Thus, 25(OH)D concentrations could affect pancreatic function and possibly pancreatic cancer etiology. Serum 25-(OH)D is the major circulating vitamin D metabolite and is considered the best indicator of vitamin D status as determined by the sun and diet. Although recent prospective epidemiologic studies of higher predicted vitamin D status score and vitamin D intake and pancreatic cancer risk suggest protective associations, a nested case-control study showed a significant 3-fold increased risk for pancreatic cancer with higher vitamin D status. Limitations of these studies include the former do not measure vitamin D status on pancreatic cancer cases and the later was conducted in a male smoker population. More research is needed, particularly examination of pre-diagnostic vitamin D status and risk of pancreatic cancer, prior to conclusions for vitamin D's potential role in the etiology of this highly fatal cancer.

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