Vitamin D deficiency is associated with higher mortality in melanoma patients

There has been quite a bit of news regarding Vitamin D in the medical literature over the  last several years. Numerous studies have highlighted a correlation among Vitamin D deficient patients and higher rates of cancers, including breast, colorectal, bladder and prostate cancer. Vitamin D is a hormone synthesized by ultraviolet radiation in the skin.  It can also be obtained through dietary intake, though most Americans do not eat a diet rich in Vitamin D.  Melanoma skin cancer is a proliferation of cancerous melanocytes that have metastatic potential.  The overall lifetime risk for melanoma in the United States is 1 in 38 for Caucasian Americans.   As excessive sun exposure  is a strong risk factor for the development of melanoma skin cancer,  it is important to understand any relationship between Vitamin D and melanoma. A recent study examined the relationship between serum Vitamin D levels and melanoma.

This systematic meta-analysis included data from twenty-five studies. The intention of this study was to investigate the risk of melanoma and prognosis of melanoma among different Vitamin D levels in patients.  In regards to the prognosis of melanoma patients, the researchers in this study investigated the relationship of tumor thickness (Breslow depth), mortality rates and vitamin D status.    The findings revealed lower Vitamin D levels associated with higher Breslow thickness and mortality rates in patients with melanoma.  This is consistent with evidence obtained from previous studies with other malignancies.  The study did not find a statistically significant association between Vitamin D levels and melanoma incidence.

According to the authors of this study, the mechanism underlying the protective effects of Vitamin D has been attributed to the ability of vitamin D  metabolite to suppress proliferation and activate differentiation of melanoma cells that express Vitamin D receptors (VDR).  Additionally, vitamin D may inhibit invasion and angiogenesis of tumor cells.  Finally, additional research is needed to determine  the causal relationship  of Vitamin D deficiency and melanoma as well as the benefit of Vitamin D supplementation in melanoma patients.