An introduction to cancerHow does vitamin D work?

A number of mechanisms have been identified by which vitamin D reduces the risk of cancer.

These include effects such as regulation of cell growth, differentiation, apoptosis and a wide range of cellular mechanisms central to the development of cancer1 2, regulation of calcium absorption and metabolism3, and reduced risk of angiogenesis and metastasis4.  

These mechanisms operate to reduce the risk of cancer from developing and spreading, but may not be as important between initiation and angiogenesis.

A hypothesis regarding the role of vitamin D in reducing risk of cancer incidence and progression was recently proposed. It has seven phases: disjunction, initiation, natural selection, overgrowth, metastasis, involution, and transition (abbreviated DINOMIT)5. This mechanism notes that vitamin D is a necessary co-factor for the expression of proteins that hold cells together (e.g., E-cadherin) and that mediate intercellular communication, both of which are important for restraining tissue growth and could function not only in cancer initiation, but in the control of metastasis. 

Page last edited: 04 May 2011


  1. Ingraham, B. A. Bragdon, B. Nohe, A. Molecular basis of the potential of vitamin D to prevent cancer. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 Jan; 24 (1): 139-49.
  2. Rheem, D. S. Baylink, D. J. Olafsson, S. Jackson, C. S. Walter, M. H. Prevention of colorectal cancer with vitamin D. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2010 Aug; 45 (7-8): 775-84.
  3. Lamprecht, S. A. Lipkin, M. Chemoprevention of colon cancer by calcium, vitamin D and folate: molecular mechanisms. Nat Rev Cancer. 2003 Aug; 3 (8): 601-14.
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  5. Garland, C. F. Gorham, E. D. Mohr, S. B. Garland, F. C. Vitamin D for cancer prevention: global perspective. Ann Epidemiol. 2009 Jul; 19 (7): 468-83.