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Previous clinical studies have shown a link exists between vitamin D deficiency and the occurrence of certain health-related conditions. A recent study has shown that vitamin deficiency may increase the risk of bladder cancer development.

Vitamin D helps the body control iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphate and zinc levels. It is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by the body when ultraviolet rays from the sun come into contact with the skin which triggers the synthesis of vitamin D. This vitamin can also be obtained from food sources such as egg yolks and fatty fish.

Vitamin D obtained from sun exposure and food is a biologically inactive and has to undergo two hydroxylation phases (enzyme conversions) in the body in order for it to be activated. The first occurs in the liver where vitamin D is converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D (calcidiol), and the second phase occurs in the kidneys where the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol) is formed.

It has been noted that previous clinical studies have discovered an association between vitamin D deficiency and numerous health-related conditions including cognitive impairment, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune disorders and the development of certain cancers. Individuals who are at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency include those who live in countries where there's decreased exposure to sunlight, and also due to the fact that it's difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from food alone. People with a darker skin are also more prone to developing a vitamin D deficiency and in the U.K. in winter, up to 75% of these individuals develop a vitamin D deficiency. 

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the U.K. decided to investigate if an association existed between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of developing bladder cancer.

The study and the findings

The investigators researched the data from seven previous studies, that were conducted on the same topic, which included test subjects ranging from 112 to 1125 individuals in each study. Five out of these seven studies showed a link between low levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of developing bladder cancer.

The researchers then conducted another study that looked at the cells that line the bladder (transitional epithelial cells) and discovered that these cells can actually activate and respond to vitamin D, which results in the stimulation of the immune system. This is an important finding because the immune system can then identify and destroy abnormal cells before they develop into malignant growths, therefore playing an important role in cancer prevention.

Clinical significance

These findings are quite significant as they suggest that healthcare professionals should identify patients who are at high risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency, and that they must be managed appropriately to avoid developing associated health-related conditions such as bladder cancer.

A vitamin D deficiency can be easily treated by suggesting increased sun exposure and consuming foods that contain the vitamin, and if that isn't possible, prescribing vitamin D supplements which are inexpensive and readily available.

The researchers of the study suggested that these findings need to be confirmed by performing further clinical trials though.

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