The association of vitamin D with survival in colorectal cancer patients depends on antioxidant capacity

Daniel Boakye, Lina Jansen, Ben Schöttker, Eugene H.J.M. Jansen, Niels Halama, Haifa Maalmi, Xin Gào, Jenny Chang-Claude, Michael Hoffmeister, Hermann Brenner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Background Vitamin D plays a role in detoxifying free radicals, which might explain the previously reported lower mortality in colorectal cancer (CRC) patients with higher vitamin D concentrations.

Objectives We aimed to assess whether the associations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] with prognosis in CRC patients differ by total thiol concentration (TTC), a biomarker of antioxidant capacity.

Methods CRC patients who were diagnosed from 2003 to 2010 and recruited into a population-based study in southern Germany (n = 2,592) were followed over a period of 6 y. 25(OH)D and TTC were evaluated from blood samples collected shortly after CRC diagnosis. Associations of 25(OH)D with all-cause and CRC mortality according to TTC were estimated using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression.

Results There was a weak positive correlation between 25(OH)D and TTC (r = 0.26, P < 0.001). 25(OH)D was inversely associated with mortality among patients in the lowest and middle TTC tertiles, but no associations were found among patients in the highest TTC tertile (P-interaction = 0.01). Among patients in the lowest/middle TTC tertiles, those in the middle and highest (compared with lowest) 25(OH)D tertiles had 31% and 44% lower all-cause mortality (P < 0.001) and 25% and 45% lower CRC mortality (P < 0.001), respectively. However, in the highest TTC tertile, 25(OH)D was not associated with all-cause (P = 0.638) or CRC mortality (P = 0.395).

Conclusions The survival advantages in CRC patients with adequate vitamin D strongly depend on antioxidant capacity and are most pronounced in cases of low antioxidant capacity. These findings suggest that TTC and other biomarkers of antioxidant status may be useful as the basis for enhanced selection criteria of patients for vitamin D supplementation, in addition to the conventional judgment based on blood 25(OH)D concentrations, and also for refining selection of patients for clinical trials aiming to estimate the effect of vitamin D supplementation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1458-1467
Number of pages10
JournalThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • vitamin D
  • 25(OH)D
  • antioxidant capacity
  • total thiol
  • survival
  • colorectal cancer


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