Do Vitamin D and Marijuana Have Something in Common?

Originally Posted May 15th 2015

A number of studies reveal that high levels of vitamin D in the blood may have a protective effect against bladder cancer. It now also appears that marijuana may play a similar role – which while controversial, is a rather interesting development!

Here are some of the bladder cancer risk factors, and how these two substances may play a role in reducing the risk of the disease.

Bladder cancer risk factors and symptoms 

Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, frequency of urination, and pain or burning during urination. However, these can also be symptomatic of a bladder or urinary tract infection, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis.

Common risk factors include:

  • Long-term smoking – this occurs because chemicals in the smoke come into contact with the bladder after they have been filtered from the bloodstream via the kidneys.
  • Ageing – especially if older than 70.
  • Being a male – the disease is considerably more common in men.
  • Working in certain occupations – for example, blacksmiths, hairdressers, mechanics, painters, metal machine operators, and miners.
  • Exposure to arylamine chemicals and polycyclic hydrocarbons – which may occur in the plastics, rubber and petroleum industries.
  • Specific conditions – such as diabetes, chronic bladder infections and bladder stones, and having had radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

What is vitamin D’s potential role?

Studies involving more than 89,000 participants and over 2,000 bladder cancer sufferers showed that high vitamin D levels in the blood were associated with lower bladder cancer risk.  In addition, a 2012 Spanish National Cancer Research analysis of blood samples taken from 2,000 hospital patients revealed that those with the highest levels of vitamin D3 also had the lowest rates of bladder cancer.  

The reason for this might be because vitamin D plays a role in the regulation of the expression of the FGFR3 protein. Which is involved in the development of bladder cancer. In the Spanish study, for instance, patients with high vitamin D levels also had low levels of this protein.

Vitamin D also performs a number of other roles in human health – such as the promotion of cell differentiation and supporting the absorption of calcium. It may also reduce the risk of other types of cancers and some auto-immune conditions.  

Marijuana’s potential role

As we know, marijuana is an illegal substance, but putting that aside for a moment we should consider its potential health benefits.

So how exactly can marijuana affect symptoms of cancer?  

Data from the California Men’s Study Cohorts involving over 84,000 participants showed that men who regularly smoked marijuana alone had considerably lower rates of bladder cancer than those who smoked tobacco, or who smoked both substances.  

It’s possible that this is due to a compound in marijuana that protects cells against cancer-causing mutations. However, a lot more research is required to show a definite link between marijuana and effective bladder cancer treatment or prevention. The above study did not include any non-smokers, and at this stage is inconclusive.  

What does this mean when it comes to the risk of bladder cancer?

Getting more vitamin D may lower the risk of bladder cancer. You can get more vitamin D through diet, supplements, or through more sun exposure (done cautiously, of course, to guard against premature skin ageing and skin cancer).   It’s also important to cut back or quit if you’re a smoker, and to live a healthy lifestyle.

If you are concerned about bladder cancer or you are showing symptoms, you should consult your doctor or urologist for a diagnosis.