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Copyright ©The Author(s) 2016. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Jan 21, 2016; 22(3): 933-948
Published online Jan 21, 2016. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i3.933
Protective links between vitamin D, inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer
Stacey Meeker, Audrey Seamons, Lillian Maggio-Price, Jisun Paik
Stacey Meeker, Audrey Seamons, Lillian Maggio-Price, Jisun Paik, Department of Comparative Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, United States
Author contributions: Meeker S reviewed literature and wrote the manuscript; Seamons A, Maggio-Price L and Paik J revised and edited drafts; all authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
Supported by Grant No. AICR 09A136-Rev, NIH R21 CA149995-01A1 and NIH 5T32DK007742-17.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors disclose no potential conflicts of interest.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Jisun Paik, PhD, Department of Comparative Medicine, University of Washington, Box 357340, 1959 NE Pacific Street, Seattle, WA 98195, United States.
Telephone: +1-206-2212682 Fax: +1-206-6853006
Received: April 29, 2015
Peer-review started: May 12, 2015
First decision: September 9, 2015
Revised: September 28, 2015
Accepted: November 24, 2015
Article in press: November 24, 2015
Published online: January 21, 2016

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a wide range of diseases and multiple forms of cancer including breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Relatively recent work has demonstrated vitamin D to be critical in immune function and therefore important in inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Because vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is increasingly prevalent around the world, with an estimated 30%-50% of children and adults at risk for vitamin D deficiency worldwide, it could have a significant impact on IBD. Epidemiologic studies suggest that low serum vitamin D levels are a risk factor for IBD and colon cancer, and vitamin D supplementation is associated with decreased colitis disease activity and/or alleviated symptoms. Patients diagnosed with IBD have a higher incidence of colorectal cancer than the general population, which supports the notion that inflammation plays a key role in cancer development and underscores the importance of understanding how vitamin D influences inflammation and its cancer-promoting effects. In addition to human epidemiological data, studies utilizing mouse models of colitis have shown that vitamin D is beneficial in preventing or ameliorating inflammation and clinical disease. The precise role of vitamin D on colitis is unknown; however, vitamin D regulates immune cell trafficking and differentiation, gut barrier function and antimicrobial peptide synthesis, all of which may be protective from IBD and colon cancer. Here we focus on effects of vitamin D on inflammation and inflammation-associated colon cancer and discuss the potential use of vitamin D for protection and treatment of IBD and colon cancer.

Keywords: Vitamin D, Inflammatory bowel disease, Colitis, Colon cancer, Inflammation-associated colon cancer, Mouse models

Core tip: Vitamin D is inversely related to inflammation-associated diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer. As vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are prevalent worldwide, it can significantly impact risk and progression of these diseases. Here we provide an overview of human epidemiologic and animal studies linking vitamin D, IBD and colon cancer. We also review potential mechanisms of vitamin D action that were elucidated by using animal models. Finally, we address current knowledge gaps in this field of research to help determine the potential benefits and risks of using vitamin D to prevent and/or treat IBD and cancer.