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Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 2015 Sep;23(3):71-8. doi: 10.1515/hmbci-2015-0011.

Vitamin D3 in cancer prevention and therapy: the nutritional issue.


The action of vitamin D3, in its biological form 1α,25(OH)2vitD3 or calcitriol, may be summarized as a steroid-like hormone able to modulate basic functions of cell encompassing energy balance, stress response, mitochondria biogenesis, intracellular calcium oscillations, and replication/apoptosis mechanisms leading to cell survival. Moreover, calcitriol exerts a potent role as an innate and adaptive immune cytokine as immunity is closely related to self-maintenance through its energetic/metabolic balance and homeostasis of cell turnover. Therefore, vitamin D might be the ancestral form of survival hormones developed with calcified vertebrate bearing skeleton in order to survive far from water. This characteristic may suggest that the role of dietary vitamin D in preventing cancer is simply ancillary to the many factors playing a major role in contrasting impairment in energy balance and cell survival. Most probably, the immune role of calcitriol might be included in the maintenance, mostly by adipose tissue, of an anti-inflammatory, tolerant immune status, depending on the immune tolerance and modulation from the gut. A balance closely modulated by the leptin axis, which when impairments in metabolism occur, such as in insulin resistance or obesity, calcitriol is unable to face at this imbalance, while leptin plays a major role and cancer progression may be promoted. Furthermore, this mechanism promotes epithelial/mesenchymal transition-mediated fibrosis, leading to cancer resistance to immune control and drug action. Interestingly, this pathologic picture is triggered by deficiency in vitamin D from the diet. Therefore, a dietary habit including vitamin D sources, besides flavonoids, may ameliorate lifestyle and health span in most individuals, depending on their genetic background.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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