While the prevalence of pancreatic cancer in the United States is relatively low compared to other types of cancer, the mortality rate of those with pancreatic cancer is devastating. Only about 8% of pancreatic cancer patients survive the first 5 years of diagnosis.
The relationship between vitamin D and cancer risk and mortality is significant. Several studies have shown that low vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including lung, kidney, bladder and ovarian. Additionally, more research supports a relationship between higher vitamin D status and decreased rates of mortality.
The relationship between vitamin D and pancreatic cancer is complicated. Recent studies, such as the JAMA paper the Vitamin D Council addressed earlier this month, have alluded to the fact that higher vitamin D status negatively affected patients with pancreatic cancer. Several observational studies have suggested that higher vitamin D status increases pancreatic cancer risk. However, these studies were merely observational, meaning that they can only prove association, not causation, and they were from 2006. Additionally, a stronger cohort study found negative associations between vitamin D and pancreatic cancer, but again, it is important to acknowledge that this study was from 2010.