Prevalent vitamin D deficiency (VDD) and low bone mineral density (BMD) have led to vitamin D supplementation for children with cancer, regardless vitamin D status. However, it remains unsettled whether this enhances bone strength. We sought to address this issue by carrying out a systematic review of the literature.
We conducted a literature search using PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane databases. Studies including children up to 5 years after cancer therapy were assessed for the association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels and BMD Z-scores or fractures, and the effect of vitamin D supplementation on BMD or fractures. Evidence quality was assessed using the GRADE methodology.
Nineteen studies (16 observational and 3 interventional, mainly involving children with hematologic malignancies) were included. One study which analyzed 25OHD as a threshold variable (≤10 ng/ml) found a significant association between 25OHD levels and BMD Z-scores, while 25OHD as a continuous variable was not significantly associated with BMD Z-scores in 14 observational studies. We found neither a significant association between lower 25OHD levels and fractures (2 studies), nor between vitamin D (and calcium) supplementation and BMD or fracture frequency (3 studies) (very low quality evidence).
There is a lack of evidence for an effect of vitamin D (and calcium) supplementation on BMD or fractures in children with cancer. Further research is needed; until then, we recommend dietary vitamin D/calcium intake in keeping with standard national guidelines, and periodic 25OHD monitoring to detect levels <20 ng/ml. Vitamin D/calcium supplementation is recommended in children with low levels, to maintain levels ≥20 ng/ml year-long.
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute