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Cancer. 2011 Mar 1;117(5):1061-9. doi: 10.1002/cncr.25647. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

Racial disparity in death from colorectal cancer: does vitamin D deficiency contribute?

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA.



The reasons blacks have higher mortality rates from colorectal cancer (CRC) than non-Hispanic whites are not fully understood. Blacks have higher rates of vitamin D deficiency than non-Hispanic whites, and vitamin D deficiency has been associated with CRC. The authors of this report investigated the association of vitamin D deficiency with excess risk for CRC mortality for blacks in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) that was conducted from 1988 to 1994.


The association between serum 25(OH)D levels and CRC mortality and its contribution to elevated risk among blacks were studied using baseline data from NHANES III and CRC mortality data through 2006 from the National Death Index. By using survival models, the adjusted risk of death from CRC for African Americans was examined with and without adjusting for vitamin D deficiency, which was defined as an 25(OH)D level <20 ng/dL.


Black race (hazard ratio [HR], 2.03; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.04-3.95), age (HR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.09-1.15), not having health insurance (HR, 2.45; 95% CI, 1.12-5.36), and a history of CRC (HR, 7.22; 95% CI, 2.12-24.6) predicted CRC mortality. When added to the model, vitamin D deficiency was associated significantly with CRC mortality (HR, 2.11; 95% CI, 1.11-4.00), and the effect of race was decreased (HR, 1.60; 95% CI, 0.87-2.93); the 40% attenuation was statistically significant (F(1) (,49) = 4.85; P = .03). Similar results were observed when participants who had a history of CRC were excluded from the analysis.


The current findings were consistent with the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency contributes to excess African-American mortality from CRC. Cancer 2011.

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