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Have Breast Cancer? Start Taking Vitamin D

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Have Breast Cancer? Start Taking Vitamin D

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)?
  1. It boosts the immune system, which is key to keeping breast cancer at bay [1]
  2. It stops cancer cells from growing uncontrollably (this is called ‘anti-proliferation,’ and may help breast cancer survivors live longer without cancer recurring) [1]
  3. It stops spread of cancer from its origin to other locations in the body (i.e. metastasis) [1]
  4. 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 [1]
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) [2]

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 [3]

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 [3].  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 [4]

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. [5]

What’s Next?

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.

Need help coming up with questions to ask your doctor? Sign up here for a complimentary 20 min call and let’s work together to formulate questions that will get you answers that can lead to good health outcomes.

  1. Griffin N and Dowling M. Vitamin D supplementation and clinical outcomes in cancer survivorship. Br J Nurs. 2018 Oct 18;27(19):1121-1128.
  2. Vrieling A, et. Al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and postmeno­pausal breast cancer survival: a prospective patient cohort study. Breast Cancer Res. 2011;13:R74.
  3. 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.
  4. Crew KD, et al. Association between plasma 25-hy­droxyvitamin D and breast cancer risk. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009;2(6):598-604.
  5. Garland CF, et al. Vitamin D for cancer prevention: global perspective. Ann Epidemiol. 2009;19:468-83

Prevent and Conquer Cancer Our mission at Bedside Manners is to be the most empowering, survivorship-promoting Cancer Advocates we can be.  With our Atlanta-based Cancer Health Coaches and Scientists, we provide a toolkit filled with strategies to get better healthcare and implement a cancer-fighting diet and lifestyle. If you are overwhelmed by a recent cancer diagnosis sign up here for a complimentary 20 min call and get 2 immediate action steps to help improve your survival odds.

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