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Low vitamin D before menopause: Could boosting levels thwart breast cancer?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Lower vitamin D levels before menopause could boost breast cancer risk.

Women who are approaching menopause with low vitamin D levels could be a higher risk for breast cancer finds a new study.

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine investigators discovered the link when they measured levels of the so-called sunshine vitamin among 1,200 healthy women 90 days before they reached menopause.

Principal investigator Cedric Garland, DrPH, FACE, professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UC San Diego explained researchers don’t know exactly how vitamin D works to prevent the disease.

Studies have shown low levels of the vitamin in women with advanced stages of breast cancer.

Fifty percent lower risk of breast cancer with higher vitamin D

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The researchers speculate there may be a window of opportunity for prevention three months before menopause when breast cancer tumors are trying to grow.

Garland says just before menopause could be when tumors may be recruiting blood vessels for growth.

In 2011 Garland and his team found breast cancer risk was 50 percent lower for women with vitamin D levels of 50 ng/ml that is also shown to be safe.

Speak with your doctor about taking supplements. Garland cautions that women should not take megadoses of the vitamin - 4000 IU per day of vitamin D from foods that include fish, eggs, mushrooms, fortified cereals, dairy or a supplement should provide the body with a serum level of 50 ng/ml.

The study doesn't prove higher vitamin D levels just before menopause can prevent breast cancer. Garland says the finding does raise the possibility and is based on results of blood samples from 600 women who later developed breast cancer, and from 600 women who remained healthy.

University of California - San Diego
January 24, 2013
Published in Cancer Causes and Control

Image credit: Morguefile