The metabolite of vitamin D, 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3
(also known as calcitriol),
is a biologically active molecule required to maintain the physiological functions of several target tissues in the human body from conception to adulthood. Its molecular mode of action ranges from immediate nongenomic responses to longer term mechanisms that exert persistent genomic effects. The genomic mechanisms of vitamin D action rely on cross talk between 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3
signaling pathways and that of other growth factors or hormones that collectively regulate cell proliferation, differentiation and cell survival. In vitro
and in vivo
studies demonstrate a role for vitamin D (calcitriol) in modulating cellular growth and development. Vitamin D (calcitriol) acts as an antiproliferative agent in many tissues and significantly slows malignant cellular growth. Moreover, epidemiological studies have suggested that ultraviolet-B exposure can help reduce cancer risk and prevalence, indicating a potential role for vitamin D as a feasible agent to prevent cancer incidence and recurrence. With the preventive potential of this biologically active agent, we suggest that countries where cancer is on the rise—yet where sunlight and, hence, vitamin D may be easily acquired—adopt awareness, education and implementation strategies to increase supplementation with vitamin D in all age groups as a preventive measure to reduce cancer risk and prevalence.