Calcium intake and vitamin D metabolism and action, in healthy conditions and in prostate cancer

Jean-Philippe Bonjoura1 , Thierry Chevalleya1 and Patrice Fardellonea2

a1 Division of Bone Diseases (World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Osteoporosis Prevention), Department of Rehabilitation and Geriatrics, University Hospitals of Geneva, Rue Micheli-du-Crest 24, CH-1211 Geneva 14, Switzerland

a2 Rheumatology Department, CHU Nord, Place Victor-Pauchet, 80000 Amiens cedex 1, France


An association between Ca intake and the risk of prostate cancer has been reported in some but not all epidemiological studies. Assuming that a pathophysiological relationship would underlie this association, a favoured hypothesis proposes that relatively high Ca consumption could promote prostate cancer by reducing the production of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D; calcitriol), the hormonal form of vitamin D. The present review analyses the plausibility of this hypothesis by considering the quantitative relationships linking Ca intake to 1,25(OH)2D production and action in healthy conditions and in prostate cancer. Changes in the plasma level of 1,25(OH)2D in response to Ca intake are of very small magnitude as compared with the variations required to influence the proliferation and differentiation of prostate cancer cells. In most studies, 1,25(OH)2D plasma level was not found to be reduced in patients with prostate cancer. The possibility that the level of 1,25(OH)2D in prostate cells is decreased with a high-Ca diet has not been documented. Furthermore, a recent randomised placebo-controlled trial did not indicate that Ca supplementation increases the relative risk of prostate cancer in men. In conclusion, the existence of a pathophysiological link between relatively high Ca intake and consequent low production and circulation level of 1,25(OH)2D that might promote the development of prostate cancer in men remains so far an hypothesis, the plausibility of which is not supported by the analysis of available clinical data.

(Received June 23 2006)

(Revised October 02 2006)

(Accepted November 02 2006)

Key Words:

  • Calcium intake;
  • Vitamin D metabolism;
  • Prostate cancer


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Jean-Philippe Bonjour, fax +41 22 3829973, email


  Abbreviations: IGF, insulin-like growth factor; 25(OH)D, 25-hydroxyvitamin D; 1,25(OH)2D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D; PTH, parathyroid hormone