Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that the human body uses for bone mineralization, cell growth and immune function. Vitamin D also reduces inflammation. The compound can be found in some foods and is available as a supplement. Sunlight contains the vitamin and humans can absorb it from simple exposure to the sun. Once ingested, Vitamin D goes through various transformations before the body can use it. These processes take place in the liver and kidney. Deficiencies in vitamin D are associated with various disorders such as rickets in children and osteoporosis in older adults. Additionally, much research has looked at vitamin D and hormones, specifically estrogen.
Vitamin D and Hormones
Vitamin D is studied in both human and nonhuman primates to better understand the connection between the substance and hormones. In a review published in the journal "Steroids" by researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles, scientists discuss how deficiencies in vitamin D can be related to protein binding sites at the cellular level. Through complex scientific analysis, the paper reveals that there are specific proteins determined by DNA that control the ability of the body to use and process vitamin D and estrogen. This suggests that vitamin D resistant individuals may also be at risk for low levels of estrogen.
Vitamin D, Estrogen and Cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death among men. The disease has underlying imbalances of certain hormones such as estrogen. In 2011 researchers in Hungary looked specifically at the role of proteins responsible for assisting in the body's use of vitamin D, estrogen and calcium in patients with prostate cancer. Their study, which was published in the "Canadian Journal of Urology," showed that individuals with genetically damaged protein binding receptors for estrogen and vitamin D were more likely to develop prostate cancer.
Breast Cancer and Vitamin D
In 2011 researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York published the results of a five-year-long study they conducted looking at levels of vitamin D and estrogen in women with breast cancer in the pretreatment stages. They found that women who had not yet started menopause had significantly low levels of vitamin D, as well as arelationship with malfunctioning estrogen receptors. Their study suggests that there is a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency, negative estrogen receptors and breast cancer. They note that further research may lead to vitamin D supplements are part of a pretreatment regimen.
Genetics and the Vitamin D-Estrogen Connection
Research, mainly in the areas of cancer treatment and prevention, has looked closely at the relationship between vitamin D and estrogen. It appears that the majority of work supports the idea that genetically determined receptor sites for estrogen and vitamin D work together to make sure that the body is able to ingest and process the minerals and hormones that it needs for maximum health. So while research has established a link between these two compounds, more work will be needed to show the extent and implications of this relationship.