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Vitamin D May Increase Breast Cancer Survival

Sunburst in Cloudy SkyVitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is essential for good health and may help in the fight against breast cancer. Women high levels of vitamin D who are battling breast cancer are twice as likely to survive the disease than women with low levels, suggests the findings of a new study published in the journal Anticancer Research.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that enhances the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate. Vitamin D is available through food sources such as spinach, kale, okra, collards, soy beans, white beans, and some fish such as sardines, salmon, perch, and rainbow trout as well as fortified foods such as milk. The body also synthesizes the vitamin after adequate exposure to sunlight.

Previous studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer.

The present study sought to determine whether adequate levels of vitamin D at the time of breast cancer diagnosis affected the changes of survival from the disease.

The study included 4,443 participants diagnosed with breast cancer between 1966 and 2010 who were followed for an average of nine years. The researchers divided the women into two groups: women with high levels of vitamin D and women with low levels of vitamin D.

According to the study, women with high levels of vitamin D in the blood had a 50 percent lower fatality rate from breast cancer compared to women with low levels of the vitamin.

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The researchers believe that vitamin D decreases the risk of death from breast cancer because vitamin D metabolites increase communication between cells by activating a protein that halts aggressive cell division.

Explains lead researcher Professor Cedric F. Garland of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine: “As long as vitamin D receptors are present, tumor growth is prevented and kept from expanding its blood supply. Vitamin D receptors are not lost until a tumor is very advanced. This is the reason for better survival in patients whose vitamin D blood levels are high.”

The researchers do note that the results of the study could be a result of reverse causation. More serious cases of breast cancer could result in lower vitamin D levels, thus explaining the increased risk of death.

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Adds co-author Prof. Heather Hofflich, of UC San Diego School of Medicine, “The study has implications for including vitamin D as an adjuvant to conventional breast cancer therapy.”

Although many studies have linked vitamin D to improved health, recent studies have indicated that vitamin D supplements may not be beneficial to healthy adults. Getting adequate sunlight each day appears to be the best source of vitamin D.

References

High Vitamin D Levels May Increase Breast Cancer Survival: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273728.php
Meta-analysis of Vitamin D Sufficiency for Improving Survival of Patients with Breast Cancer: http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/34/3/1163.full

Image Credits

Sunburst in Cloudy Sky: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1395122

Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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