Vitamin D and breast cancer survival



Vitamin D for your health

Photo courtesy of Irina Patrascu
Written by JSK.

Vitamin D is one of the most popular nutrients and a lot of research has been done in the recent past to study its effects. Past studies have established the fact that sufficient quantity of vitamin D in our body has a protective effect against heart disease, fractures and depression. However, in addition to this, new clinical trials have proved that high levels of vitamin D also increase the survival rate among women with breast cancer (1).

Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer haunting women across the globe (2). Statistics reveal an alarming trend – about 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in the year 2012 (3). Researchers point towards the fact that adequate nutrition during the growing up years can prevent women from falling prey to this deadly disease. In view of this fact, studies have been conducted to assess whether high levels of vitamin D can increase the survival rates of women with breast cancer.

Researchers of the San Diego School of Medicine, University of California, confirmed the fact that individuals with high levels of Vitamin D were twice as likely to survive breast cancer as compared to their counterparts who had low levels of this nutrient (4). These researchers performed statistical analysis of five studies that included around 4,443 patients suffering from breast cancer.

In the past there have been several studies stating a strong link between low levels of Vitamin D and an increased risk of developing breast cancer in premenopausal women. This finding has prompted the researchers to study the efficacy of this nutrient in increasing the survival rates of women with this disease.

The mechanism by which vitamin D metabolites work by increasing the survival rates have been explained by Prof. Garland and his colleagues. He says that high levels of this nutrient increase the cell communication which turns on the protein that inhibits the rapid cell division from taking place. He adds that as long as vitamin D receptors are present nothing can stop the protein from inhibiting the rapid cell division. Only in conditions, where the cancer has reached its advance stage the receptors are lost and are of no use. This is the reason as to why high levels of this vitamin D are necessary for better survival rate of breast cancer (4). The results of the study support the fact that individuals who had 50 ng / ml of 25 – hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH) D] level in their blood had better survival rates as compared to those who had only 17 ng / ml of 25 (OH) D.

How much vitamin D do we need?

The study recommends that, doctors should consider including vitamin D to patients in their treatment regime (5). Garland also suggested that medical practitioners need not wait for further clinical trials to be conducted in this area as a safe level of vitamin D dose has already been established. The guidelines issued by the National Institute of Health state that adults ≥ 70 years should consume at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily and those above the age of 70 years should consume at least 800 IU (1). On this Prof. Garland commented that though further research needs to be carried out in this regard, there is sufficient clinical evidence, confirming the efficacy of Vitamin D.

References

1. Vitamin D, quick facts.

2. http://globalcancermap.com/

3. http://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/34/3/1163.full

4. http://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2014-03-06-vitamin-D-and-breast-cancer-survival.aspx

5. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/03/07/vitamin-d-linked-to-improved-breast-cancer-survival-rates

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