Brain cancer Patient friendly summary

 Preliminary studies indicate sunlight exposure might be protective against brain cancer risk and mortality.

According to the National Cancer Institute's most recent data (2008), 65 out of every 1 million Americans will be diagnosed with brain cancer each year.

There are two types of brain cancer:

  • Primary brain cancer
  • Metastatic or secondary brain cancer

Primary brain cancer originates in the brain while secondary brain cancer forms when cancer in another area of the body spreads to the brain.

Risk factors

Brain cancer risk factors are not well-known, however, there is evidence that smoking, pesticide exposure, X-radiation to the head, and cell phone use may increase risk.

Sunlight exposure and brain cancer risk

Although preliminary studies indicate sunlight exposure may decrease brain cancer risk, more research is needed in this area.

Vitamin D and brain cancer

We do not yet know if vitamin D has an effect on brain cancer though it is possible, given the influence of vitamin D's actions on cancer cells.

How vitamin D works

Vitamin D directly influences cancer cells by way of its ability to:

  • inhibit unwanted cell proliferation
  • stimulate healthy cell differentiation
  • inhibit angiogenesis
  • reduce metastasis

Vitamin D levels

There are no studies reporting vitamin D levels with respect to incidence or progression of brain cancer. However, based on studies of other cancer types, it is possible vitamin D levels above 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) could be beneficial.


There have yet to be any studies that indicate vitamin D can prevent brain cancer.


It is not yet clear if vitamin D has any effect on brain cancer prognosis or survival. More research is needed.

Want to know more?

Our detailed summary on vitamin D and brain cancer coming soon.

Page last edited: 21 September 2011