Three division of epidemiology graduate students at The Ohio State University College of Public Health are co-first authors on a study of vitamin D blood levels and the risk of brain tumors. Their study of 1,704 serum samples, collected on average 15 years before brain tumor diagnosis and stored in the Janus Serum Bank in Oslo, Norway, suggests that vitamin D reduces brain tumor risk in older men. There was no evidence of a similar effect among older women or younger men or women.
In their manuscript, “Association Between Prediagnostic Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentration and Glioma” published in Nutrition and Cancer, Drs. Victoria Zigmont, Amy Garrett and Jin Peng write that it is not surprising that the effects of vitamin D are restricted to one sex and age group. Vitamin D regulates 900 genes reflecting its multiple biological functions which may vary with age, sex, the hormonal milieu and brain tumor type.
Senior author, associate professor Dr. Judith Schwartzbaum, pointed out that, “In a previous study of vitamin D and postmenopausal breast cancer, the authors observed a protective effect only among women using hormone replacement therapy. In addition, our results are similar to those of a study of dietary vitamin D and malignant melanoma of the skin which found that older men benefited from vitamin D consumption while the association was weaker among older women and non-existent among younger people.”
Co-author, professor Dr. Randall Harris, an expert on the role of anti-inflammatory medication and cancer prevention, notes that vitamin D has anti-inflammatory effects. Brain tumors progress by suppressing anti-tumor immunity, thus vitamin D’s s immune-regulatory role may account for the non-significant positive association between vitamin D blood levels and brain tumors observed among younger men and women.
This study was the first to examine the association between vitamin D and brain tumor risk. Future research will attempt replication of the findings and examine the vitamin D- brain tumor association by prediagnostic hormone levels and brain tumor type.