Vitamin D can help you beat breast cancer. A bold statement but one that’s backed by science. Vitamin D is made by our bodies from direct sunlight exposure, as well as from eating certain fish and supplementation. There is growing scientific evidence that higher levels of vitamin D prevent colon cancer, breast cancer, and several other cancers. How does this cancer fighting vitamin work? The exact ways vitamin D prevents cancer is not fully known but there are a few theories that might explain why.
How Does Vitamin D Prevent Breast Cancer (both new and recurrent)?
- It boosts the immune system, which is key to keeping breast cancer at bay 
- It stops cancer cells from growing uncontrollably (this is called ‘anti-proliferation,’ and may help breast cancer survivors live longer without cancer recurring) 
- It stops spread of cancer from its origin to other locations in the body (i.e. metastasis) 
- It stops new blood vessels from growing around the tumor (which is called angiogenesis). The anti-angiogenic effect stops fresh blood from getting to the growing tumor, which it needs in order for the tumor to continue to grow 
Vitamin D Levels Directly Impact Breast Cancer Prognosis and Survival Rates
Breast cancer survivors with low levels of Vitamin D tend to have lower overall survival rates. In addition, their chance of developing cancer at other body sites increases when vitamin D levels are low (i.e. increased risk of metastasis) 
A recent study examined the vitamin D levels in women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The study uncovered the following:
1) Women with low levels of vitamin D (13.4 ng/mL) were diagnosed with breast cancer that was “high grade” (e.g. grade 3). Grade 3 breast cancer is associated with poorer health outcomes and prognosis (e.g. thought to be due to the cancer cells being poorly differentiated). Women with high vitamin D levels (29.5 ng/mL) were diagnosed with lower grade breast cancer (e.g. Grade 1). Grade 1 breast cancer is associated with better health outcomes and prognosis. The differences between the two groups were significant 
2) Women diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer had higher levels of Vitamin D than women diagnosed with estrogen receptor negative (ER-) breast cancer . ER+ breast cancer is typically easier to treat and has a better prognosis than ER-breast cancer. Vitamin D appears to have an anti-estrogen effect in breast cancer. It may reduce the number of estrogen receptors in breast cells resulting in a reduction of certain types of breast cancers 
What are the Optimal Levels of Vitamin D that Support Breast Cancer Prevention?
It has been reported that 40 – 60 ng/mL of vitamin D can help prevent three-quarters of the deaths from breast and colon cancer. 
So if you are a cancer patient or survivor get your vitamin D levels checked then I would bring the below studies (in the Reference section) with you to your next doctor’s visit and begin a discussion around this topic.
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- Griffin N and Dowling M. Vitamin D supplementation and clinical outcomes in cancer survivorship. Br J Nurs. 2018 Oct 18;27(19):1121-1128.
- Vrieling A, et. Al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and postmenopausal breast cancer survival: a prospective patient cohort study. Breast Cancer Res. 2011;13:R74.
- Karthikayan A, et la. Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are associated with aggressive breast cancer variants and poor prognostic factors in patients with breast carcinoma. Arch Endocrinol Metab. 2018; 62:452.
- Crew KD, et al. Association between plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and breast cancer risk. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009;2(6):598-604.
- Garland CF, et al. Vitamin D for cancer prevention: global perspective. Ann Epidemiol. 2009;19:468-83
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