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Vitamin D May Help Reduce The Risk Of Breast Cancer

| Reviewed By Dr. Alex Maliekal

Also known by the name 'sunshine vitamin', vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin produced by your body when exposed to sunlight. It can also be attained from certain types of food and supplements. Posing several health benefits to your body, the vitamin helps regulate the absorption of phosphorus and calcium and facilitate the functioning of the immune system and help protect your body from external pollutants and radicals [1] .

With the vitamin being linked to various benefits and uses, one of the most beneficial ones is the possible impact vitamin D can have in preventing the onset of breast cancer. When some of the breast cells begin to grow abnormally, they divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate and develop a lump [2] .

So, how does vitamin D help in the case, you may wonder? Well, read on to know the relation between vitamin D and breast cancer.

Vitamin D For Breast Cancer Prevention?

For years, studies have been conducted on understanding the role played by vitamin D in preventing or limiting the onset of breast cancer. The most recent study on the topic, Vitamin D and breast cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies asserted that vitamin D intakes had an inverse relationship with the onset of breast cancer [3] .

The consumption of the sunshine vitamin is very beneficial for breast cancer patients. Those women whose vitamin D intake is low are more prone to suffer from breast cancer, studies reveal. It was pointed out that women with high vitamin D levels in their blood were at 45 per cent lesser risk of suffering from breast cancer in contrast to women with low levels of vitamin D in their blood [4] .

In another study, where 1666 women with breast cancer were chosen as the respondents, it was revealed that women who had higher levels of vitamin D during diagnosis had better rates of recovery compared to those with lower rates of the vitamin [5] .

Another study conducted by the researchers at University of California San Diego in collaboration with Creighton University, Medical University of South Carolina, and Grassroots Health, which studied all the previous studies linking vitamin D deficiency to breast cancer revealed that women with a higher concentration of vitamin D in their blood had a lower risk for breast cancer as compared to the ones with low levels.

Different Levels Of Vitamin D May Help, Researcher Says

With the research to find the definite role of vitamin D in preventing the onset of breast cancer never ceasing, recent studies have opened up the provision for further research on the topic. That is, the studies have reached the open conclusion that it is not just vitamin D that is helpful for the prevention of breast cancer, but different levels of vitamin D can be increasingly beneficial [6] .

"We've gone from thinking that vitamin D may help to maybe now there are different levels that can help. It certainly raises some very provocative questions about the role of vitamin D", said one of the researchers.

Vitamin D Is Not The Whole Answer - But A Part Of It

Although a seemingly central aspect in the prevention of breast cancer, researchers point out that vitamin D is not the only factor that can influence the development of breast cancer [7] . Breast cancer develops due to several factors such as diet, lifestyle, exercise and genetics, and vitamin D deficiency is one part of it.

As of now, researchers have gathered at the conclusion that vitamin D does have a relation with breast cancer [8] . However, recent studies have raised the need to advance the research in the field by carrying out in-depth trials (such as high-risk respondents), to gain a clearer understanding on of the association between breast cancer and vitamin D.

Infographics by Sharan Jayanth

View Article References
  1. [1] Grant, W., Wimalawansa, S., Holick, M., Cannell, J., Pludowski, P., Lappe, J., ... & May, P. (2015). Emphasizing the health benefits of vitamin D for those with neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. Nutrients, 7(3), 1538-1564.
  2. [2] Shan, N. L., Bak, M. J., Cai, L., Wernyj, R., Sargsyan, D., Cheng, D., ... & Suh, N. (2019). Identification of key drivers of cancer stemness and progression regulated by vitamin D compounds in ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer.
  3. [3] Hossain, S., Beydoun, M. A., Beydoun, H. A., Chen, X., Zonderman, A. B., & Wood, R. J. (2019). Vitamin D and breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Clinical nutrition ESPEN, 30, 170-184.
  4. [4] McDonnell, S. L., Baggerly, C. A., French, C. B., Baggerly, L. L., Garland, C. F., Gorham, E. D., ... & Lappe, J. M. (2018). Breast cancer risk markedly lower with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations≥ 60 vs< 20 ng/mL (150 vs 50 nmol/L): pooled analysis of two randomized trials and a prospective cohort. PloS one, 13(6), e0199265.
  5. [5] Welsh, J. (2018). Vitamin D and breast cancer: past and present. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology, 177, 15-20.
  6. [6] Swami, S., Krishnan, A. V., Williams, J., Aggarwal, A., Albertelli, M. A., Horst, R. L., ... & Feldman, D. (2016). Vitamin D mitigates the adverse effects of obesity on breast cancer in mice. Endocrine-related cancer, 23(4), 251.
  7. [7] Tavera-Mendoza, L. E., Westerling, T., Libby, E., Marusyk, A., Cato, L., Cassani, R., ... & Brown, M. (2017). Vitamin D receptor regulates autophagy in the normal mammary gland and in luminal breast cancer cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(11), E2186-E2194.
  8. [8] Atoum, M., & Alzoughool, F. (2017). Vitamin D and breast cancer: latest evidence and future steps. Breast cancer: basic and clinical research, 11, 1178223417749816.
Alex MaliekalGeneral Medicine
Alex Maliekal
Read more about: breast cancer vitamin d
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