There has been so much in the news about the benefits of vitamin D that you might believe it's the cure all for any ailment.
Well, it's not quite that, but it may be very important to breast cancer patients (or those who don't want to be breast cancer patients).
Hi there! I’m Dr. Lisa Schwartz and today I wanted to answer some questions about vitamin D and breast cancer.
First, why is vitamin D important, anyhow? Well, it plays a role in hundreds of metabolic reactions in the body. Our bodies can actually make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from the gut, it helps keep normal amounts of calcium in the blood, and it helps us use that calcium to build bones. Along with calcium, vitamin D helps protect older adults from osteoporosis and fractures.
What happens when you don’t have enough vitamin D? Well, severe deficiency in children causes a condition known as rickets, which can result in deformed and misshapen bones. In adults prolonged deficiency can result in bone softening, pain, and weakness, a condition called osteomalacia. But even mild deficiency can cause problems with bone health, neuromuscular and immune function, and inflammation.
So how does this relate to cancer? Vitamin D helps to control many genes that play a role in normal cell growth, differentiation, and cell death. As you know, this process is screwed up when it comes to cancer. Cancer cells do not grow normally, do not differentiate into normal looking cells, and do not die when they are supposed to. Vitamin D plays a role in making sure those processes are carried out normally. There is evidence that vitamin D actually plays a role in preventing certain cancers and those are breast, colorectal, and perhaps prostate.
For breast cancer in particular, there are vitamin D receptors in normal breast tissue that help regulate more than 60 genes that could have an impact on breast cell growth and differentiation.
There have been several trials that have looked at vitamin D levels in women and examined their risk of developing breast cancer. There is usually an association between a lower risk of breast cancer with higher serum levels of vitamin D.
In one review of 11 different studies that looked at vitamin D levels, women with the highest vitamin D levels had a 47% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women with the lowest levels.
Among women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer, those with the highest vitamin D levels had a reduced risk of dying from any cause and a reduced risk of dying from breast cancer.
So what does all of this tell you that you need to do?
1. Get your blood level of vitamin D checked. The test is for serum 25(OH)D.
2. Based on that blood level, you may need to be treated for a low vitamin D. Your doctor may recommend a prescription strength of vitamin D if your level is very low.
3. Otherwise 1000 to 2000 IU per day of D3 will be good for most people.
I hope that helps you understand the importance of vitamin D and the special role that it plays for breast cancer patients.
If you are interested in more information about breast cancer, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle changes, be sure to visit my website and blog at LisaSchwartzMD.com or subscribe to my You Tube channel at Lisa Schwartz, MD. Thanks for your time and attention. See you next week.
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