Boost Your Vitamin D for Breast Cancer Protection
We’ve all heard the scary statistics that a woman has a one-in-nine chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime. While survival rates are now high if it is caught before it has metastasized, cancer treatments are still nothing you would ever want to go through. Many breast cancer patients have to endure some combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, all of which carry risks and can affect your health. But what would you say to a safe and natural way to potentially reduce your breast cancer risk? New research suggests that upping your vitamin D intake might be the way to go.
The study, which was conducted in a joint effort by researchers at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and Grassroots Health, a non-profit public health research organization in Encinitas, California, found that women with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood had a much lower risk of developing breast cancer than their peers with lower levels of the vitamin.1 The investigation included more than 5,000 women, all of whom were 55 or older.
Blood samples were drawn from each of the subjects and vitamin D levels were measured. This data was then cross-referenced with the women’s medical records over an average span of four years. The participants who had vitamin D levels of 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or higher were found to have an astounding 80 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to their counterparts whose levels were 20 ng/mL or less.
For those whose blood levels of vitamin D fell into that middle range of 20 to 60 ng/mL, there was an impact shown as well. Among these volunteers, the higher their vitamin D levels were within this range, the lower their chances were of a breast cancer diagnosis.
While the study was not designed to prove cause and effect, it certainly did provide evidence of a substantial connection between vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk. And considering that breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women according to the American Cancer Society, it stands to reason that every woman should want to take all possible precautions to avoid becoming one of the statistics. According to the United States National Cancer Institute, more than 266,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year in America, and there will be nearly 41,000 deaths due to breast cancer.
So why aren’t women getting sufficient vitamin D to potentially help protect themselves from breast cancer? The National Institutes of Health guidelines presently recommend 600 IUs daily of vitamin D for adults. But this number is based on bone health, for which a vitamin D blood level of 20 ng/mL or higher is considered sufficient. The present study, however, demonstrates that it is nowhere near enough to reduce breast cancer risk.
Vitamin D can safely be taken at in quantities up to 2,000 IUs every day. You can certainly obtain some of your vitamin D through sun exposure, which helps your body produce the vitamin if you are not wearing sunblock. All you need is 10 to 20 minutes a day in the sun. But to ensure that you’re getting enough vitamin D on days that you don’t go out or on cloudy days when vitamin D production is significantly reduced, it makes sense to supplement. That said, you need to choose your supplements wisely, opting for vitamin D3 rather than D2. D2 is markedly less potent and has a shorter duration of action in its value to the body than D3. To learn more about the differences, read Jon Barron’s informative article Vitamin D Nonsense.
And in addition to breast cancer, maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D has been linked to prevention of a number of health issues, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and irritable bowel syndrome. So men and women can equally benefit from making sure their vitamin D levels are always sufficient.
- 1. McDonnell, Sharon L.; et al. "Breast cancer risk markedly lower with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations >60 vs <20 ng/ml (150 vs 50 nmol/L): Pooled analysis of two randomized trials and a prospective cohort." PLoS One. 15 June 2018. Accessed June 30 2018. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199265.