In recent years a number of studies highlighted the importance of Vitamin D to prevent illnesses such as heart disease or bone fracture, but now a new study suggests that this precious Vitamin might be a powerful ally in the fight against breast cancer.
The research, led by Prof. Cedric F. Garland of the University of California San Diego, was published in the latest issue of Anticancer Research and exposed findings that suggest a high level of Vitamin D in the blood may boost chances of survival for women with breast cancer.
Vitamin D is mostly produced in our body through exposure to sunlight but it is also contained in milk products or cereals, although in small amounts. Other sources of Vitamin D are fatty fish and in dietary supplements such as fish liver oils.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble and has the important function of helping our bones to absorb more Calcium and Phosphorus, hence its fame as a bone fortifier.
In 2009 a study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado found that lower levels of Vitamin D could boost the odds of coming down with respiratory infections.
Prof. Garland’s study was carried by performing a statistical analysis of five different studies conducted between 1996 and 2010 on 4,443 patients affected by breast cancer who were followed for a period of 9 years.
The aim of Prof. Garland was to dig deeper into evidence produced by other studies that associated high levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D – a metabolite produced by the body after the ingestion of Vitamin D – with high survival rates of breast cancer.
The patients were divided in two groups, depending on the amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D found in their blood. The first group comprised patients with an average of 30 nanograms per millimiter (ng/ml) of blood, a rather high amount, while the second group was made up of women having as little as 17 ng/ ml of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood.
The team of researchers observed that women belonging to the first group had 50 per cent more chances to survive the cancer than those included in the second group and showing lower levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood.
Prof. Garland explained the results, saying that Vitamin D diminishes the chances of fatality for breast cancer patients because its metabolites or receptors activate a protein able to enhance communication between cells and hinder the aggressive division of cells that causes cancer.
Despite the important findings emerged from the research, there are other studies that put into question the effective benefits of Vitamin D for the body.
In particular, a study published last year suggests that low level of Vitamin D might be a consequence and not a cause of illnesses. It is a hypothesis that Prof. Garland is not able to rule out and whose validity can only be proven through further experiments.
For now, Prof. Garland’s study suggests that Vitamin D is not just useful to prevent cancer, but it can also slow down its growth once the tumors has developed and can, therefore, be used as a natural adjuvant in the fight against breast cancer.
By Stefano Salustri