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Vitamin D Deficiency Raises Risk Of Breast Cancer

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Vitamin D Deficiency Raises Risk Of Breast Cancer

Study Links Vitamin D To The Aggressiveness Of Breast Cancer

A recent study has revealed that women who are deficient in vitamin D at the time they are diagnosed with breast cancer are almost 75% more likely to die from the disease than women who have sufficient levels of vitamin D, and their cancer is twice as likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Previous studies have suggested that vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of developing cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, pancreas and prostate, as well as others, but until now no study has looked into how vitamin D levels could be connected with the progress of any cancer.

“This study links vitamin D with the aggressiveness of disease,” said JoEllen Walsh of the University of Albany, who was not involved in the study. “It suggests that your vitamin D status may affect how your disease progresses.”

Study Links Vitamin D To The Aggressiveness Of Breast Cancer

Researchers tested the blood if 512 women who had been newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The average age of the participants was 50, and all the breast cancer cases were localized, meaning the disease had no spread beyond the breast and armpit region.

Over a period of 10 years results showed that 15% of the women with healthy vitamin D levels died from their cancer and a 17% had their cancers metastasize or spread to other organs.

In contrast, 26% of the vitamin D deficient patients died whilst a further 31% had cancer that metastasized. This translated into a 73% higher risk of death among those who were deficient in vitamin D with a 94% higher risk of their cancer spreading.

Among the third group of women, classified as not deficient in the vitamin but still falling short of optimal blood levels, results showed that there was no difference in cancer death rates.

The study also found a surprisingly large amount of women to be deficient of vitamin D. Only 24% of women involved in the study had vitamin D levels considered to be healthy, while 37.5% were considered deficient and the remaining 38.5% fell in between.

Vitamin D deficiency was significantly more common among women with a higher body weight. According to study author Pamela Goodwin of Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto, this is because “fat tissue acts as a trap for vitamin D.”

“Levels were also lower in younger women,” she said, “which was a bit of a surprise, until we realized older women were taking more supplements.”

Women who were premenopausal or had high insulin levels were also more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.

“This study found that vitamin D deficiency is very common among women with breast cancer, and it suggests that vitamin D deficiency is linked to poorer outcomes in these women,” said Nancy Davidson, director of the breast cancer program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Goodwin recommended that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer should take a simple blood test to determine their body’s vitamin D levels.

“If you’re a woman with breast cancer, it’s probably worthwhile having vitamin D levels checked. If they’re deficient, they should take more to get it in the range that we think is beneficial,” she said.

“This study is significant because it tells us this may be one thing women can do to improve their prognosis,” said Anne McTiernan of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Even with strong evidence that vitamin D can help prevent – and, in the current study, fight off – various cancers, researchers are still unclear on the mechanism by which the chemical works.

“We know from basic science studies that breast cancer cells have vitamin D receptors and can interact with vitamin D,” Goodwin said.

Daily vitamin D recommendations vary widely by country, with the United States and Canada recommending 200 IU per day for children and 400 IU for adults. But many researchers, and even the Canadian Cancer Society, have recommended that this value be raised to 1,000 IU per day. While 400 IU may be sufficient to maintain bone health, scientists say, higher levels are needed to provide cancer-fighting benefits.

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