DEC 18, 2022 11:00 AM PST

Activated Vitamin D3 May Protect Against Arsenic in Drinking Water

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Activated vitamin D3 may protect against conditions including skin cancer that arise from drinking arsenic-contaminated water. The corresponding study was published in Am J Cancer Res

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 140 million people in at least 70 countries consume arsenic from drinking water at levels above the WHO guidelines of 10 μg/L. 

While short-term exposure to arsenic is linked to symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, long-term effects include skin cancer, diabetes, pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease. Until now, there has been limited information on molecules that regulate arsenic-promoted carcinogenesis.

Vitamin D comprises a group of interrelated hormonal compounds. Calcitriol is the most active form of vitamin D. In the current study, researchers investigated the effects of calcitriol on carcinogenesis in human skin cells known as keratinocytes following exposure to arsenic. 

They found that calcitriol inhibited arsenic-mediated growth of cancer in the skin cells. Upon closer inspection, they found that arsenic levels in skin cells cultured with arsenic significantly decreased with increasing doses of calcitriol. 

In further tests, they found that calciferol was able to suppress arsenic-induced tumorigenesis in lung epithelial cell lines by 21.4- 70%. This, they noted, means that calcitriol may be able to protect diverse cell types against arsenic. They also found that calciferol treatment significantly altered gene expression involved with arsenic intake. 

The researchers hope that their findings may ‘contribute to the prevention and therapy for arsenic-mediated diseases including cancer’. As the study was conducted in cell models however, further research is needed to see how these findings may translate in live animals and humans before conclusions can be drawn. The research nevertheless paves the way for future studies investigating calcitriol’s potential to prevent or treat arsenic-triggered cancer. 

Sources: Science Daily, Am J Cancer Res

About the Author
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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