Low Vitamin D Levels Are Bad News for Breast Cancer

Now that the weather is turning warm again, our thoughts turn to the welcome warmth of sunshine. Perhaps we should also think about the health benefits of the appropriate amount of sunshine and one of its more profound effects on the body—the production of vitamin D.
 
You have probably heard that if we don’t get enough vitamin D, our bones will suffer, no matter how much calcium we get.
 
But have you heard about the accumulating evidence linking adequate amounts of vitamin D and reduced risk of breast cancer as well as improved survival rate?
 
Most recently, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reported that breast cancer patients with high levels of vitamin D in their blood are twice as likely to survive the disease as women with low levels of the nutrient. This was published in March in the journal Anticancer Research. 
 
The lead researcher, Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, had shown in previous studies that low vitamin D levels were linked to a high risk of premenopausal breast cancer.
 
His interest piqued, Garland and his colleagues performed a statistical analysis of five studies of a combined 4,443 breast cancer patients. They looked at a metabolite of Vitamin D called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which was obtained at the time of patient diagnosis and during follow-up. Patients were studied for an average of nine years.
 
Women in the high serum group had an average level of 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood. The low group averaged 17 ng/ml.
 
Combine this information with the results of a 2011 meta-analysis by Garland and colleagues. That study estimated that a serum level of 50 ng/ml is associated with 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer.
 
So, it sounds like we should get our doctor to measure our vitamin D levels to see if they are lower than 50 ng/ml. Chances are, they will be: The average level in patients with breast cancer in the United States is 17 ng/ml.
 
According to Medline Plus, lower-than-normal levels can be due to a vitamin D deficiency, which can result from:
•          Lack of exposure to sunlight
•          Lack of enough vitamin D in the diet
•          Liver and kidney diseases
•          Poor food absorption
•          Use of certain medicines, including phenytoin, phenobarbital, and rifampin
 
Sunlight will contribute some Vitamin D, but not enough for many people, and certainly not in the north during winter weather. So, it may feel good to be in the sun, and this may have health benefits, but most of us will need to take supplements to have the optimal amount in the study.
 
Garland recommends that physicians consider adding vitamin D into a breast cancer patient’s standard care now.  “There is no compelling reason to wait for further studies to incorporate vitamin D supplements into standard care regimens since a safe dose of vitamin D needed to achieve high serum levels above 30 nanograms per milliliter has already been established,” said Garland. However, it is possible to have too much vitamin D, so you should be monitored.  
 
While absorption rates vary somewhat from person to person, it takes about 4,000 International Units (IU) per day of vitamin D from food or a supplement to reach a serum level of 50 ng/ml.  Compare that with the current recommended daily allowance for vitamin D: a apltry 600 IU for adults and 800 IU for people over 70 years old.
 
- See more at: http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/breast-cancer-patient-survival-increased-by-vitamin-d/cancer-breast/#sthash.wF91Euiq.dpuf


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