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Low Levels of Vitamin D Increase Risk of Breast Cancer

November 1, 2021

When you think of breast health, do you think of vitamin D? Well, you should! Research has found that women with low levels of vitamin D are at a higher risk for breast cancer. Here’s what you need to know.

The 411 on Vitamin D
Vitamin D is not a vitamin—technically, it’s a steroid hormone that affects over 200 genes and is necessary for the health of every cell in the body. Vitamin D has to be “activated” for it to be effective and most tissues in the body have cellular receptor sites where this happens. It affects a number of major functions in the body, including the reduction of inflammation, calcium absorption, and bone development. Deficiency has been linked to depression, weight gain, and many kinds of cancer including colon, prostate, and breast cancer. According to the Vitamin D Council, vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial for autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, and possibly for preventing autism. An optimal vitamin D level can also support heart and lung function, regulate insulin, reduce chronic pain conditions, and even improve mood. This is a pretty powerful “vitamin”! As important as this is, most individuals are vitamin D deficient. In U.S. women, the average vitamin D level is 29 ng/mL, well below the recommended 40 ng/mL. Typically, vitamin deficiency goes unnoticed as symptoms are subtle and are often attributed to other conditions.

Why Vitamin D Is a Must for Breast Health
When it comes to preventing breast cancer, the evidence about vitamin D is crystal clear. There are over 1,000 studies that show the connection between vitamin D and breast cancer prevention. In fact, it’s been found that the higher the serum vitamin D, the better at preventing cancer. In addition, much research shows that it is extremely important for regulating cell growth. Adequate levels in women appear to reduce the risk of breast cancer up to 83%, and some studies suggest that vitamin D may reduce the progression of cancer. This happens by slowing the growth of blood vessels within the cancer cells, thus causing cancer cell death and reducing the chance of cancer spreading (known as metastasis). Even more exciting is the fact that vitamin D is associated with better survival rates among breast cancer patients.

How to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
The most common and easiest way to increase vitamin D is to spend more time outside in the sun. Short bursts of sun exposure, 15–30 minutes a few times a week, can easily give you the daily dose needed. For the skin to synthesize vitamin D from the sun it needs to be exposed directly to sunlight, with no sunscreen or clothing barriers. A form of vitamin D called D3 (cholecalciferol) is produced inside the body as a result of exposure to sunlight, and close to 90% of the usable vitamin D in the body comes in the form of D3. Spending time in the sun will support your health in many ways by increasing your vitamin D production and decreasing your risk of breast cancer. However, if you are extremely deficient, you may need to supplement with a quality product.

Many individuals have such low levels that supplementation is needed, especially those who take medications with contraindications to sun exposure, those with darker skin, third-shift workers, and those who live in climates where there is less direct sunlight. Your physician can test your serum levels and let you know how many IUs (international units) are needed for supplementation. Make sure to use a high-quality vitamin D3 that includes vitamin K; too much vitamin D without proper amounts of vitamin K will increase calcium deposits in the soft tissue instead of the bone, where it belongs.

You can also increase vitamin D levels through your diet. Foods rich in vitamin D include eggs; wild mushrooms like maitake; fatty fish such as sardines, herring, and salmon to name a few. Dark, leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and spinach are also great choices.

If you’re looking to be proactive with your breast health, have breast cancer, or are a survivor, don’t be in the dark about your vitamin D levels. Get tested by your physician so an optimal level of vitamin D can be achieved. To protect breast health, the idea is to maintain a therapeutic level between 50–70 ng/mL.

Vitamin D: Your breast health depends on it!

April Beaman, RDH, CTT, is a medical thermographer, certified by the Professional Academy of Clinical Thermology, and a professional member of Breast Thermography International. Beaman has worked in the wellness industry for over 15 years and provides thermography screenings and wellness support for both men and women. She is the owner of CT Thermography, located in Farmington. Connect at 860.415.1150 or CTThermography.com.

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