Are Breast Cancer and Vitamin D Deficiency Connected?

Researchers say that vitamin D can make the body more resistant to breast cancer.

Research on the role of vitamin D in breast cancer has not been conclusive, but one more piece of the puzzle has just been discovered.

A new study concludes that obese postmenopausal women were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency at the time of diagnosis of breast cancer than women of the same age group without cancer.

The positive relationship could suggest that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for breast cancer, especially in women with a higher body mass index.

Dr. JoA Pinknerton, executive director of The North American Menopause Society and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia Health System, says this is not surprising.

“Many studies have shown that women whose diets are high in fat are more likely to get breast cancer,” he explained.

They are also more likely to be storing inactive vitamin D in their fat cells, which lowers overall levels in the blood.

“Even if overweight women take as much vitamin D from the sun, food or supplements, their blood levels tend to be lower,” Pinkerton told Healthline.

But does this mean that losing weight and taking a supplement are key to preventing breast cancer?

What experts have to say

The connection between obesity and breast cancer is clear.

“For cancer prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends that people achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives … For those who are currently overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and it’s a good place to start, “Marji McCullough, ScD, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology at the American Cancer Society, told Healthline.

What is still unclear is the role of vitamin D.

“This study measured vitamin D in the blood of women who had already been diagnosed with breast cancer,” McCullough said.

“Their findings of lower concentrations in breast cancer patients compared to controls are consistent with some previous studies, however, since vitamin D levels were measured after diagnosis of breast cancer, it is not known whether the Low levels of vitamin D influenced the risk or were the result of breast cancer. ”

Another factor is the fact that it is often overlooked that there are many types of breast cancer. The manner in which an intervention affects the risk of a certain subtype may not be consistent with others.

“Breast cancer is not a disease. We know it now, “Jean Sachs, executive director of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, told Healthline.

“There is not going to be a cure, there will be many cures based on your particular subtype and genomic mutation.”

So… should you take a supplement?

Like most medical things, it depends on who you ask.

“We always want to tell women … let’s not hurt. It is probably not harmful to take vitamin D, why not do that? “Sachs said.

The American Cancer Society takes into account the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, such as age and geographic location, and the recommended daily doses when suggesting supplementation:

“The current RDA for vitamin D intake is 600 IU / day for most adults and 800 IU / day for people over 70 years old. For people who do not eat foods that contain vitamin D, a supplement may be necessary. “The National Academy of Medicine recommends not to exceed 4,000 IU of vitamin D / day because very high levels can be toxic,” McCullough said.

“The benefits of vitamin D are not yet proven, but it makes sense that women of all ages need adequate levels of vitamin D for their bones, their immune systems and their health,” Pinkerton added.

“However, women should also recognize that too much vitamin D can cause abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood, which can cause problems with blood pressure, bone loss or kidney damage.”

How you can protect yourself

Sometimes, breast cancer simply happens and there is no clear understanding of why.

“We see too many women who have a healthy weight, have early pregnancies, took vitamin D, whatever, and get the disease,” Sachs said.

“So we say all these things, you know, do what you can to live healthy, but that does not mean you’re not going to have breast cancer because we still do not know what causes the disease, except for that little disease. where we know it is hereditary. ”

Still, the healthy lifestyle factor can not be ignored. Pinkerton suggests:

Exercise daily and incorporate a system of friends several days a week.
Choose healthier food options and keep healthy options in sight
Drink plenty of water or water and avoid sugary or diet drinks
if you are overweight, aiming to lose 10 pounds in a year by increasing movement and decreasing calories

These are things that most of us already know we should be doing, and what else?

Get tested and stay informed.

If you have a strong family history, the insurance will cover genetic mutation tests. Talk to your doctor about seeing a genetic mutation counselor.

If you suspect, Sachs says: “Be sure to follow up, especially for the younger women who are told, ‘Oh, you do not need a mammogram, you’re too young’ … Just be persistent with your health care provider . “

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