Sex disparities in vitamin D status and the impact on systemic inflammation and survival in rectal cancer

BMC Cancer. 2021 May 11;21(1):535. doi: 10.1186/s12885-021-08260-2.


BACKGROUND: We reported previously that rectal cancer patients given curative-intent chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery for non-metastatic disease had enhanced risk of metastatic progression and death if circulating levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH) D] were low. Here we investigated whether the association between the vitamin D status and prognosis pertains to the general, unselected population of rectal cancer patients.

METHODS: Serum 25(OH) D at the time of diagnosis was assessed in 129 patients, enrolled 2013-2017 and representing the entire range of rectal cancer stages, and analyzed with respect to season, sex, systemic inflammation, and survival.

RESULTS: In the population-based cohort residing at latitude 60°N, 25(OH) D varied according to season in men only, who were overrepresented among the vitamin D-deficient (< 50 nmol/L) patients. Consistent with our previous findings, the individuals presenting with T4 disease had significantly reduced 25(OH) D levels. Low vitamin D was associated with systemic inflammation, albeit with distinct modes of presentation. While men with low vitamin D showed circulating markers typical for the systemic inflammatory response (e.g., elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate), the corresponding female patients had elevated serum levels of interleukin-6 and the chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 7. Despite disparities in vitamin D status and the potential effects on disease attributes, significantly shortened cancer-specific survival was observed in vitamin D-deficient patients irrespective of sex.

CONCLUSION: This unselected rectal cancer cohort confirmed the interconnection of low vitamin D, more advanced disease presentation, and poor survival, and further suggested it may be conditional on disparate modes of adverse systemic inflammation in men and women.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT01816607 ; registration date: 22 March 2013.

PMID:33975557 | PMC:PMC8111928 | DOI:10.1186/s12885-021-08260-2