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Vitamin D may boost survival rate for breast cancer patients

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Study finds high levels of vitamin D may increase survival rates for breast cancer.

A new study has found that high levels of vitamin D may increase a breast cancer patient’s chance of survival.

The study’s findings, published in the journal Anticancer Research, suggest that breast cancer patients with large amounts of vitamin D in their blood could double their chances of survival, compared with patients who had low levels.

Researchers for the study said that vitamin D, which is fat-soluble, is necessary for the successful absorption of calcium and phosphorus to our bones.

While most people get their primary source of vitamin D from the sun, supplements are sometimes used to make sure people get enough, as most foods contain only minimal amounts of the vitamin.

Study leader, Prof. Cedric F. Garland of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said that his previous studies discovered a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer.

Accordingly, he set out to further explore the association between breast cancer survival rates and 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a metabolite produced from taking vitamin D).

What the study found was that patients with breast cancer who had high levels of vitamin D in their blood had a 50 percent reduced rate of deaths from the disease than those with lower levels of vitamin D.

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For the study, researchers analyzed five other studies that examined the association between breast cancer and 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which involved 4,443 breast cancer patients between 1966 and 2010 who were followed over an average period of 9 years.

Patients with an average of 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood were placed in the “high” group, with those with an average of 17 ng/ml in their blood placed in the “low” group. The researchers noted that the mean blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for breast cancer patients in the United States is 17 ng/ml.

As a result, the researchers discovered that breast cancer patients with high levels of the vitamin in their blood cut their chances of death from the disease by half, compared to their counterparts with low levels.

According to Prof. Garland, high levels of vitamin D appears to reduce the number of deaths in breast cancer patients as a result of the vitamin D metabolites, which boost communication among cells by activating a protein that blocks the cells from dividing and spreading.

He added that so long as vitamin D receptors are present, the cancer cells are prevented from growing, which keeps the tumor from spreading.

Nevertheless, Prof. Garland says that additional studies are necessary in order to validate the findings of his latest research.

In the meantime, he added that there’s no reason you shouldn’t increase your intake of vitamin D now, although he suggests talking with your doctor before doing so.

SOURCE: Meta-analysis of Vitamin D Sufficiency for Improving Survival of Patients with Breast Cancer, Cedric F. Garland et al., published in Anticancer Research, March 2014.