A study found that low vitamin D levels were associated with a higher ROMA score, an indicator of increased risk for developing ovarian cancer, among obese women.
Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. Approximately one out of 75 women develop ovarian cancer during their lifetime. Due to the high prevalence and mortality rate of ovarian cancer, researchers and scientists have been desperately searching for treatments and screening tests for early detection. It can strike women as young as 18.
The Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm (ROMA) offers a reliable screening test, combining the measurements of two serum biomarkers (CA-125 and human epididymis protein 4, HE4) with menopausal status to predict the risk for developing epithelial ovarian cancer. According to a clinical trial of 472 patients with pelvic masses, ROMA has a sensitivity of 93.8% in detecting ovarian cancer.
Previous research has suggested vitamin D may play a role in the prevention and protection of ovarian cancer. In addition, a 2016 study determined that those who were genetically predisposed to low vitamin D levels also experienced higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.
In a recent study, researchers evaluated the vitamin D levels and ROMA scores among 260 women. The analysis divided the women into two groups, group 1 included women considered obese and group 2 included the women considered overweight or normal weight.
As expected, the researchers found low vitamin D status was significantly associated with obesity (p < 0.001). This association has been clearly established through past research. The reasoning for this is quite simple; fat stores vitamin D, reducing its bioavailability. High ROMA scores were only detected in obese women. The researchers discovered that the majority of obese women with high ROMA scores (64%) also had insufficient levels of vitamin D (< 20.2 ng/ml), leaving only 36% of obese women with high ROMA scores to be considered vitamin D sufficient (p < 0.0001).
The researchers concluded,
“This study suggests that the deficiency of 25- OH vitamin D in obese women has a possible correlation with high ROMA score.”
As always, observational studies leave the question of whether the relationship observed, in this case, vitamin D and ROMA scores, is attributed to solely vitamin D or sun exposure. This cannot be determined until randomized controlled trials are conducted.
Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. New study suggests link between low vitamin D status and increased risk of ovarian cancer. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, February 2, 2017.