There has been some discussion about the connection between vitamin D levels and breast cancer. Recent studies show low vitamin D levels may increase the chance of cancer recurrence and sufficient vitamin D supplementation is cancer preventative. Vitamin D has additional benefits for those attempting to reduce their chance of developing breast cancer and those undergoing treatment.
Vitamin D is also known as calciferol or the “sunshine vitamin.” It is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports the growth of bones and teeth. Sunlight exposure helps the human body naturally produce vitamin D. The body starts producing vitamin D when ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are in contact with the skin. The vitamin can be consumed as a supplement and is also found in some foods.
The following list of foods includes vitamin D:
Vitamin D is frequently added to the following foods:
The correlation between vitamin D levels and breast cancer is a subject of debate among scientists. One explanation is that there are multiple research variables, including different cutoff values used in studies to gauge vitamin D deficiency.
Many studies have revealed that a significant portion of those who are given breast cancer diagnoses have poor vitamin D levels. People with low vitamin D levels may be more prone to cancer development and recurrence (metastasis).
According to one study, 34% of the control group had vitamin D levels above 20 ng/ml at the time of diagnosis, while 45% of those with breast cancer did not. According to research, vitamin D contains anticarcinogenic characteristics, which may help prevent the growth of cancer cells.
Vitamin D deficiency can be harmful to your overall health. Your body needs vitamin D to support cardiovascular (heart), reproductive, immune, nervous, and skeletal muscle function.
Some specific roles of vitamin D in the body include:
To learn more about vitamin D and breast cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Women facing surgery after a breast cancer diagnosis have the option of removing the entire breast (mastectomy) or only the affected breast tissue (lumpectomy). Regardless of which type of surgery a patient chooses, research shows both groups of women are equally satisfied with their breasts 10 years after surgery.
However, there were two areas where breast conservation patients and mastectomy patients differed: women who had a lumpectomy along with adjuvant radiation therapy (also known as “breast conservation”), reported better psychological and sexual well-being 10 years after surgery than those who underwent mastectomy and reconstruction.
“These findings may inform preference-sensitive decision-making for women with early-stage breast cancer,” explains Dr. Benjamin D. Smith, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
According to a similar study, these findings “have substantial implications for patient decision-making, given that more women eligible for breast-conserving surgery are opting for a mastectomy,” shares Dr. Sudheer Vemuru, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora.
“Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests superior short-term and long-term patient-reported outcomes in patients with early-stage breast cancer undergoing breast-conserving surgery compared with mastectomy,” adds Dr. Vemuru.
Regardless of what type of surgery a patient ultimately chooses to have, if they are fully informed of ALL their options, they are far more likely to be satisfied with their overall outcome and feel they made the best choice for them. Patients and medical providers must work together to decide what surgical procedure(s) best meets the patient’s outcome goals and lifestyle.
If you don’t understand what your physicians or nurses are saying, don’t be scared to let them know your concerns. When you see your doctor, you may want to bring another person with you and have them take notes to help you remember what was said. Here are some questions to ask to better understand your options:
More questions for your breast surgeon can be found here.
Shared decision-making occurs when the health care professional and patient work together to make a treatment decision that is best for the patient. The best decision takes into account evidence-based information about treatment options, the physician’s knowledge and experience, and the patient’s preferences and values. Multiple studies show this collaborative approach improves patient outcomes and satisfaction.
Shared decision-making is a method where both the patient and physician participate in the medical decision-making process together. To arrive at the best treatment plan for the patient, this approach considers all evidence-based treatment options and associated risks, the physician’s expertise, together with the patient’s preferences, values, and expectations.
Download the latest version of the Breast Advocate app here.
Low vitamin D levels may play a role in developing breast cancer, particularly in minority women.
The immune-boosting benefits of vitamin D are well-known and several prior studies have looked at the impact of low vitamin D levels on various diseases.
According to a new study, Black and Hispanic American women with low vitamin D levels have a greater risk of breast cancer than those with adequate vitamin D levels. Having enough vitamin D may therefore help decrease the risk of breast cancer in minority women.
Katie O’Brien, Ph.D., and colleagues looked at blood samples from 290 Black and 125 Hispanic women who later developed breast cancer. They also collected samples from 1,010 Black and 437 Hispanic women who did not develop breast cancer.
Over a nine-year period, women with sufficient vitamin D levels had a 21% lower breast cancer rate than women with vitamin D deficiency. The study found the link between vitamin D and breast cancer risk was highest in Hispanic women, who had a 48% decreased risk of breast cancer if they had sufficient vitamin D levels.
“Because women who identify as members of these groups have lower vitamin D levels, on average than non-Hispanic White women, they could potentially receive enhanced health benefits from interventions promoting vitamin D intake,” explains study co-author Katie O’Brien, of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “However, questions remain about whether these associations are truly causal and, if so, what levels of vitamin D are most beneficial.”
Spending enough time outdoors in the sunshine is very important as your body naturally produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Taking a regular supplement can also help increase your vitamin D levels, along with including certain foods in your diet, such as:
To learn more about vitamin D and cancer prevention, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.