The notion that vitamin D can influence the incidence of cancer arose from epidemiological studies. The major source of vitamin D in the organism is skin production upon exposure to ultra violet-B. The very first observation of an inverse correlation between exposure of individuals to the sun and the likelihood of cancer was reported as early as 1941. In 1980, Garland and Garland hypothesised, from findings from epidemiological studies of patients in the US with colon cancer, that vitamin D produced in response to sun exposure is protective against cancer as opposed to sunlight per se
. Later studies revealed inverse correlations between sun exposure and the occurrence of prostate and breast cancers. These observations prompted laboratory investigation of whether or not vitamin D had an effect on cancer cells. Vitamin D is not active against cancer cells, but the most active metabolite 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3
(1,25D) has profound biological effects. Here, we review the anticancer action of 1,25D, clinical trials of 1,25D to date and the prospects of the future therapeutic use of new and low calcaemic analogues.
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