Womens Health

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

Several recent studies have suggested a link between vitamin D levels and breast cancer growth and spread, and women who were diagnosed with a more aggressive breast cancer were found to have lower levels of vitamin D overall. By comparing blood samples of over 100 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years, researchers were able to compare the level of vitamin D at different stages of the cancer's development. The women who had low vitamin D levels were more than 8 times more likely to have aggressive breast cancer which spread beyond the breast to the skin or chest wall than women with normal vitamin D levels. In the women who were diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a type of cancer which is more aggressive, harder to treat and more likely to come back, most all were found to have extremely low levels of vitamin D.

It appeared that African American women were more likely to have the low vitamin D levels than white women, and were more likely to have severely low levels. The difference may be due to the fact that darker skin pigmentation tends to act as a block to producing vitamin D when exposed to sunlight-the primary source of vitamin D in the majority of people. A higher body mass index and adequate physical activity can also boost vitamin D levels in women

Vitamin D and Overall Health

Both vitamin D and calcium are necessary for bone health, and overall good health, and it is now recommended that vitamin D levels be routinely checked as a part of your regular health screenings. Vitamin D has also been determined to be useful in heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin D is essential for normal calcium function as well as immune function, and has been shown in some studies to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation, and helps to maintain adequate blood levels of the calcium and phosphate bone formation needs. While most people get the required amount of vitamin D through sunlight exposure, it can also be obtained through the diet-although few foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Certain fortified foods such as milk, juices, yogurt, bread and breakfast food contain vitamin D and it occurs naturally in fatty fish, fish liver oil and eggs, with smaller amounts being found in meats and cheeses.

Recommended Amounts of Vitamin D

Unfortunately, researchers are not clear as to why vitamin D levels are low in women with breast cancer, but have determined that adequate levels of the vitamin are very important in the fight against breast cancer. The minimum recommended dose of vitamin D for a woman from birth to 50 years is 200 IU, or 400 IU for women from 51-70, although this is the low end, and many recommend substantially more. 5000 IU daily is generally considered safe; symptoms of excessive vitamin D intake may include heart rhythm abnormalities, mental status changes such as confusion, pain, anorexia, fever, chills, thirst, vomiting and weight loss. If you are at risk for breast cancer, or have already been diagnosed, ask your physician about testing your blood to determine the levels of vitamin D you have and talk about a vitamin D supplement.

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