Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the USA and accounts yearly for 11% of all cancer deaths (Center for Disease Control and American Cancer Society). Thus, identifying strategies that reduce its incidence is critically important. Calcitriol, the most active form of vitamin D, is a pleotropic hormone with a wide range of biological activities. Due to its ability to regulate calcium and phosphate metabolism, 1,25D3 plays a major role in bone health. In addition, 1,25D3 binds to the vitamin D receptor and thereby regulates the expression of a number of genes which control growth, differentiation and survival of cancer cells. Although a well-recognized physiological role of vitamin D is the regulation of calcium and phosphate metabolism, recent studies suggest a much broader range of biological functions of vitamin D, including potential anti-neoplastic effects. Garland et al. discovered in 1980 that colon cancer mortality rates in the U.S. were highest in places where populations were exposed to the least amount of sunlight, and proposed that vitamin D might be a protective factor against colon cancer. Since then, extensive studies have reported anti-neoplastic actions of vitamin D, particularly in colorectal cancer.
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