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Finding Genuis Podcast: Do Vitamin D and Genomic Ancestry Affect Cancer Cells? An Expert Explains

Richard Jacobs, host of the “Finding Genuis Podcast,” recently interviewed Moray Campbell, PhD, a research scientist at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, about a study he co-authored that found vitamin D deficiency may contribute to prostate cancer disparities.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium to strengthen bone health. It also stimulates cell growth. Campbell told Jacobs that the primary way humans absorb vitamin D is through sun exposure. But men of African descent living in the U.S. often don’t get enough vitamin D this way.

African men developed higher melanin levels in their skin to protect against the strong sunlight that they were exposed to in Africa. However, their descendants living in the U.S. get less exposure to bright sunshine, which ultimately results in vitamin D deficiency in this population.

Campbell said that the study investigators examined prostate cancer cells from patients of African and European descent and compared the cells’ reaction to vitamin D exposure. This was the first study to focus on vitamin D at a genetic level in African American men and European American men, Campbell told Jacobs.

“We’re interested in … where the vitamin D receptor binds across the genome … what genes it regulates, and what those gene-regulation scenarios do to both a nonmalignant prostate cell and then what they would do to prostate cancer,” Campbell, senior author of the study, said.

In the study, the investigators found that prostate cancer cells of African American men reacted differently than those of European American men when exposed to vitamin D. This difference ultimately makes African American men more vulnerable to prostate cancer.

Click here to listen to the complete “Finding Genuis Podcast” episode.