Vitamin D may assist with helping women with breast cancer fight the disease. According to a report published March 6th in the journal, Anticancer Research, patients were twice as likely to survive breast cancer if they had high levels of vitamin D in their blood, solidifying the notion that the nutrient is an essential part of a treatment plan as well as a healthy diet.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Cedric F. Garland of the University of California, San Diego. In previous studies, Garland found that low vitamin D levels were linked to an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer in women. Those studies prompted him to conduct this one and it has now been concluded that vitamin D metabolites block aggressive cell division, which prevents cancer from expanding by preventing tumor growth.
Five studies in total were reviewed, including more than 4,440 women suffering from breast cancer. The analysis focused on 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is a metabolite the body produces from vitamin D. The patient’s levels were initially measured at diagnoses and then remeasured for an average of nine years. There were variations in absorption, but the findings were that if a patient consumes 4,000 IUs per day of vitamn D, they had a 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum level of 50 nanograms per milliliter. If the patients had at least 30 nanograms per milliliter of the metabolite in their blood, they had survival rates that were twice of those who had 17 nanograms per milliliter.
This is convincing proof of how essential vitamin D is, especially for patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are struggling to survive the devastating disease. The National institute of Health recommends 600 IUs of vitamin D for healthy adults and 800 IUs for women and men over the age of 70. Vitamin D is produced naturally by the body when it is exposed to sunlight, and is found in some foods such as milk and eggs, but the best food source is fish like salmon, sardines and tuna.
Supplementation though is key, as the highest concentration of vitamin D from food is found in salmon that is wild caught (not farmed), which contains 988 IUs from a 3.5 ounce serving. For comparison, light tuna from a can gives only 150 IUs per 4 ounces. It’s incredibly difficult for people to get the daily allowance needed from food alone. Vitamin D3 pills are cheap and small, so they are affordable and easy to take. Also, fish oil is affordable and an excellent source of vitamin D, which is a crucial part of a healthy diet.
Beyond the individual, researchers are clear that increasing vitamin D3 levels amongst the general population could help prevent many chronic diseases that are responsible for nearly 1 million lives every year. Infections, like the flu and common cold, are also fought off by vitamin D, as it helps your immune system to attack and destroy viruses and bacteria by regulating expressions of genes in the body. So, beyond aiding survival rates amongst women with breast cancer, vitamin D is essential for everyone, especially the elderly.
By Matt Stinson