According to a new meta-analysis, there is no link between vitamin D and pancreatic cancer.
The cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, though there are some known risk factors. These include older age, smoking, type II diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and chronic pancreatitis.
One problem with pancreatic cancer is that when it’s discovered, intervention is often no longer possible. So researchers are very interested in risk factors to make sure we understand all the preventative measures we can take.
As most here know, researchers are very interested in the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D, by way of influencing the proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis of cells. There is particularly good data showing that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in breast, colon and prostate cancers. The extent of benefit of getting enough vitamin D in protecting against these diseases is not known, but researchers have high hopes that better sun exposure habits and vitamin D supplementation can significantly reduce incidence of these three cancers.
One cancer that has cast a modicum of doubt on vitamin D is pancreatic cancer. There are a few studies that show that people with a high vitamin D level or intake may have a slight increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to lower intakes. Vitamin D enthusiasts counter that since there is benefit in taking vitamin D against the three common cancers of breast, colon and prostate, if there is any risk of getting pancreatic cancer, it’s worth the risk in the benefit you’re getting.
But is there an increased risk of pancreatic cancer? Sure, a few studies do show an increased risk, but what do all the studies combined show? Recently, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College looked at this very question and did a meta-analysis on vitamin D and pancreatic cancer.
The researchers searched the PubMed, Web of Science and Embase databases for literature on pancreatic cancer and vitamin D. Studies were included in their meta-analysis if they measured vitamin D intake or 25(OH)D levels and looked at pancreatic cancer as the outcome of interest.
The researchers found nine studies that met inclusion criteria. Three of them measured vitamin D intake, while the other 6 measured vitamin D levels.
The researchers took a look at the odds ratio from each study. The odds ratio (OR) was calculated by comparing the pancreatic cancer incidence of the highest category of vitamin D levels/intake to the incidence in the lowest category of vitamin D levels/intake. They then pooled the ORs of the studies together.
This is what they found:
- There was a slight but statistically non-significant increased risk of getting pancreatic cancer if you were in the highest category of vitamin D compared to lowest (OR=1.14, 0.896–1.451).
- When they only looked at blood levels and excluded intake studies, there was also a slight but statistically non-significant increased risk of getting pancreatic cancer if you were in the highest category of vitamin D compared to lowest (OR=1.04, 0.93–1.17).
The researchers concluded,
“In conclusion, this meta-analysis showed no association between vitamin D level and risk of pancreatic cancer. Increased dietary vitamin D or circulating concentrations of 25OHD did not increase the risk of pancreatic cancer based on the evidence from the current published studies.”
So, based on current evidence, it appears that pancreatic cancer is not even a concern when we look at the cost-benefit analysis of vitamin D.