Vitamin D protects against liver cancer in European study

June 9, 2014 by Melva Robertson, Emory University

(Medical Xpress)—Vitamin D has been shown to play an important role in liver function. Now a new study in Western Europeans shows that vitamin D lowers the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the main form of liver cancer. The findings are from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort, coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC-WHO, Lyon, France), Imperial College London (ICL, UK), and Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

The study is published in the June 6, 2014 edition of Hepatology.

Liver cancers, HCC and other sub-types, are collectively the sixth most common cancer and third highest cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Medical evidence reports that chronic hepatitis B (HBV) or hepatitis C (HCV) infection, exposure to mycotoxins, obesity, type 2 diabetes, tobacco smoking, and alcohol abuse are major risk factors for HCC.

Veronika Fedirko, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and Mazda Jenab, PhD, scientist at the IARC-WHO, and team examined associations between pre-diagnostic blood vitamin D concentration and HCC.

"Despite evidence that vitamin D supports liver health, the association between vitamin D levels and HCC had not been fully examined," explains Fedirko, who is also lead author of the study. "Our study is the largest in Western populations to investigate levels of vitamin D and its impact on risk."

"Our results suggest a role for vitamin D in HCC etiology, but it remains to be determined whether the association is causal," explains Jenab.

The study was funded by the French National Cancer Institute (INCA) and relied on data from the EPIC cohort—a large prospective study of over 520,000 participants from Western Europe with detailed data on lifestyle patterns. The study included 138 subjects that developed HCC between 1992 and 2010, after recruitment into the cohort. Each case was matched to a control by age, sex, study center, date and time of blood collection and fasting status. Blood vitamin D levels were measured by state-of-the-art liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry.

Findings indicated that higher levels of vitamin D in the body cut the risk of HCC in half (49 percent risk reduction; highest vs. lowest tertile: multivariable-adjusted incident rate ratio = 0.51). Time from enrollment to diagnosis, pre-existing liver damage, and chronic HBV or HCV infection did not change the results.

"Given the rising incidence of liver cancer in developed countries and the potential of vitamin D to protect against HCC, further investigation in other populations is warranted," says Fedirko.

"There is steadily growing scientific evidence that low circulating vitamin D concentration is a marker of increased risk for various cancers, particularly colorectal cancer, but advocacy for D supplementation for prevention must be based on more evidence. Better understanding of HCC etiology can lead to effective prevention strategies for this disease that is often diagnosed in late stages with few treatment options," adds Jenab.

Explore further: Patient factors affect accuracy of AFP detection of liver cancer

Related Stories

Patient factors affect accuracy of AFP detection of liver cancer

May 4, 2014
(HealthDay)—Measurement of α-fetoprotein (AFP) detects hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) most accurately in patients without hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, according to a study published in the May issue of Clinical Gastroenterology ...

Family history of liver cancer increases risk of developing the disease

April 24, 2012
A family history of liver cancer is reported to increase risk of developing hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC), independent of hepatitis according to findings published in the May issue of Hepatology, a journal of the American ...

Immunotherapy could help tackle tough liver cancer

April 11, 2014
Significant new data presented today at the International Liver Congress 2014 indicate that liver cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)) may be treated by adoptive T-cell therapy.

Coffee consumption reduces risk of liver cancer

October 22, 2013
Coffee consumption reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, by about 40 percent, according to an up-to-date meta-analysis published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, ...

Vitamin D deficiency may help spread of hepatitis B throughout liver

June 6, 2013
Researchers from Germany have found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with high levels of hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication. Findings published online in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the ...

Vitamin D may raise survival rates among cancer patients

April 29, 2014
Cancer patients who have higher levels of vitamin D when they are diagnosed tend to have better survival rates and remain in remission longer than patients who are vitamin D-deficient, according to a new study published in ...

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.