Researchers ID Role of Vitamin D in Melanoma


United Kingdom—Vitamin D can make melanoma cells less aggressive, according to scientists at Cancer Research UK.

A press release says that the researchers found that vitamin D influences the behavior of a signaling pathway within melanoma cells, slowing down their growth and preventing them from spreading to the lungs in mice.

The release notes that, while this is early research, it shows promise. Scientists have previously known that lower levels of vitamin D circulating in the body have been linked to worse outcomes for people with melanoma, but they haven’t understood the mechanisms in question. Professor Newton-Bishop and her team and the University of Leeds designed the study to discover what processes were being regulated by vitamin D in melanoma cells, and what happens when the cells lack a vitamin D receptor (VDR).

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The team found that human tumors with lower levels of the VDR gene grew faster, and had a lower activity of genes that control pathways that help the immune system fight cancer cells. They also found that tumors with lower VDR levels had a higher activity of genes linked to cancer growth and spread, particularly the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway, which helps to modulate a variety of biological processes within the cell, including growth.

In mice, the researchers found that increasing the amount of VDR on the melanoma cells reduced activity of the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway, and slowed down the growth of the melanoma cells. They also found that the cancer was less likely to spread to their lungs.

Professor Newton-Bishop said in the release: “After years of research, we finally know how vitamin D works with VDR to influence the behavior of melanoma cells by reducing activity of the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway. This new puzzle piece will help us better understand how melanoma grows and spreads, and hopefully find new targets to control it. But what’s really intriguing is that we can now see how vitamin D might help the immune system fight cancer. We know when the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway is active in melanoma, it can dampen down the immune response causing fewer immune cells to reach the inside of the tumor, where they could potentially fight the cancer better.”

She adds that vitamin D isn’t a cancer treatment on its own, but insights gained from its mechanism of action could be used to boost the effects of immunotherapy, which uses the immune system to find and attack cancer cells.

Martin Ledwick, Head Information Nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: “Vitamin D is important for our muscle and bone health, and the NHS already recommends getting 10 micrograms per day as part of our diet or as supplements, especially in the winter months. People who have been newly diagnosed with melanoma should have their vitamin D levels checked and managed accordingly. If you are worried about your vitamin D levels, its best to speak to your doctor who can help ensure you are not deficient.”


  1. The natural way to produce vitamin D, of course, is exposure of the skin to UVB light from the sun or from UVB light from sunlamps or sunbeds, which stimulate the skin to produce vast quantities of vitamin D. But remember that vitamin D is only one of many photoproducts produced by sun exposure. Others are serotonin, endorphin, dopamine, brain derived neurotropic factor and nitric oxide, all vital to human health. It makes perfect sense that sunlight would produce vitamin D to protect the skin from adverse effects of sunlight. Sunlight is actually profoundly protective against melanoma. A beautiful system, no? But vitamin D supplementation can never provide what light provides. Here are a few facts about sun exposure that you should know:
    •Seventy-five percent of melanomas occurs on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sun.
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
    •Multiple sclerosis (MS) is highest in areas of little sunlight, and virtually disappears in areas of year-round direct sunlight.
    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as sun avoiders.
    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
    •Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
    •Sun exposure decreases heart disease risk.
    •Sun exposure dramatically improves mood.
    •Those persons who spend many hours daily outdoors have only 1/50 the risk of Parkinson’s disease!
    •For each death caused by diseases associated with sun exposure, there are 328 deaths caused by diseases associated with sun deprivation.
    •Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, essential to nerve function.
    •Sun exposure can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure.
    •In the U.S. vitamin D deficiency in children has increased by 83 times during a 14 year period. That is likely due to indoor living and sunscreen use. More information:, and read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s book, Embrace the Sun.

  2. In addition to my last comment, here are some facts about sunlight and melanoma that you and your readers should enjoy:
    • Seventy-five percent of melanomas occur on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sunlight.
    • In the U.S., as sun exposure has decreased by about 90% since 1935, melanoma incidence has increased by 3,000%.
    • As in the US, while sun exposure in Europe has profoundly decreased, there has been a spectacular increase in melanoma.
    • Men who work outdoors have about half the risk of melanoma as men who work indoors.
    • Outdoor workers, while receiving 3-9 times the sun exposure as indoor workers, have had no increase in melanoma since before 1940, whereas melanoma incidence in indoor workers has increased steadily and exponentially.
    • Sunscreen invention, along with its steadily increasing use, has not reduced the risk of melanoma. In fact, it has melanoma has increased as sunscreen use has increased.
    • Increasing melanoma incidence significantly correlates with decreasing personal annual Sunlight exposure.
    • Outdoor workers do get numerous sunburns but still have dramatically lower risk of contracting melanoma.
    So, since melanoma increases as sun exposure decreases, should we continue to blame the sun?
    More information:, and read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s book, Embrace the Sun.


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