Objective Evidence suggests protective effects of vitamin D and antitumour immunity on colorectal cancer risk. Immune cells in tumour microenvironment can convert 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] to bioactive 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, which influences neoplastic and immune cells as an autocrine and paracrine factor. Thus, we hypothesised that the inverse association between vitamin D and colorectal cancer risk might be stronger for cancers with high-level immune response than those with low-level immune response.
Design We designed a nested case–control study (318 rectal and colon carcinoma cases and 624 matched controls) within the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study using molecular pathological epidemiology database. Multivariable conditional logistic regression was used to assess the association of plasma 25(OH)D with tumour subtypes according to the degree of lymphocytic reaction, tumour-infiltrating T cells (CD3+, CD8+, CD45RO+ (PTPRC) and FOXP3+ cells), microsatellite instability or CpG island methylator phenotype.
Results The association of plasma 25(OH)D with colorectal carcinoma differed by the degree of intratumoural periglandular reaction (p for heterogeneity=0.001); high 25(OH)D was associated with lower risk of tumour with high-level reaction (comparing the highest versus lowest tertile: OR 0.10; 95% CI 0.03 to 0.35; p for trend<0.001), but not risk of tumour with lower-level reaction (p for trend>0.50). A statistically non-significant difference was observed for the associations of 25(OH)D with tumour subtypes according to CD3+ T cell density (p for heterogeneity=0.03; adjusted statistical significance level of α=0.006).
Conclusions High plasma 25(OH)D level is associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer with intense immune reaction, supporting a role of vitamin D in cancer immunoprevention through tumour–host interaction.
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