Share on PinterestExperts say that vitamin D supplementation should only be used by certain groups that need it. Zeng Baoyan / EyeEm / Getty Images
- Researchers say higher levels of vitamin D can help improve a person’s chances of surviving breast cancer.
- Experts say that most people in the United States do not have adequate vitamin D levels because few foods naturally contain the mineral.
- They add that vitamin D supplementation is only required for certain groups of people, including those who have passed menopause.
Getting enough vitamin D at diagnosis is linked to better breast cancer outcomes.
This is the result of a new study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual virtual meeting in 2021.
The researchers measured vitamin D levels at the time they were diagnosed with breast cancer and then measured survival results 10 years later in nearly 4,000 people.
The researchers said they found that vitamin D supplementation, body mass index, and race / ethnicity were the most influential factors on blood vitamin D levels.
Song Yao, PhD, lead study author and molecular cancer epidemiologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, said in a press release that the results provide the strongest evidence yet of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in breast cancer Patient.
This is particularly true of black women, who have a higher death rate from breast cancer than white women.
The researchers’ results are in line with previous analyzes of a smaller population, and experts say it’s important to see the same trends in this much larger, longer-term data set.
Yao said this suggests continued benefit for people who maintain adequate levels during and after breast cancer treatment.
Marji McCullough, ScD, RD, a senior scientific director for epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society, told Healthline that most of the research on vitamin D has focused on colon and breast cancers.
“Studies have shown that higher levels of vitamin D in the blood are linked to a lower risk of colon cancer,” she said. “This study helps demonstrate a role for vitamin D in breast cancer survival.”
Higher vitamin D levels in the blood are all values that reach or exceed the “sufficient” clinical limit value (≥30 ng / ml).
Vitamin D deficiency is less than 20 ng / ml, according to the Nutritional Supplements Office of the National Institutes of Health.
Does that mean vitamin D can fight breast cancer? Not exactly.
Dr. Nicole Williams, a medical oncologist who specializes in treating breast cancer patients at the Ohio State University-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Richard J. Solove Research Institute, says the benefits of vitamin D for those Cancer prevention are mixed.
More research is needed before any conclusions about the vitamin’s role in cancer, she added.
“One of these studies was the VITAL (vitamin D and omega-3) study, the largest randomized clinical trial testing vitamin D for cancer prevention, Williams.
Vitamin D supplementation
Experts say that most people in the United States consume less than the recommended amounts of vitamin D.
This may be because there are limited ways to get vitamin D naturally. You can only get vitamin D from a few foods or from sun exposure.
The National Institutes of Health list these vitamin D-rich food options:
- Cod liver oil
- Fortified milk and juices
- Fortified cereals
If you are not sure whether you are getting enough vitamin D, talk to your doctor.
“In general, if you are healthy and not having any medical problems, you don’t have to worry about starting out on supplements,” Williams said.
But those in higher risk groups may want to have their scores tested.
Williams lists the following groups that may need supplementation:
- Postmenopausal women
- Men and women on long term steroids
- older adults (tied to a home or in nursing homes / assisted living)
- expectant and breastfeeding people
- People with Chronic Kidney Disease
- People with parathyroid disease
- Obese people
What does dark skin have to do with vitamin D?
“The higher concentration of melanin in dark skin reduces the formation of vitamin D from sun exposure,” explains McCullough.
“It has been estimated that black people need five to ten times as much sun exposure to get the same level of vitamin D in their blood as fair-skinned people,” she says.
Williams added that there are likely several factors that explain the racial gap between vitamin D levels.
Several factors include obesity, skin pigmentation, vitamin D binding protein polymorphisms, and genetics.
“No single factor alone can fully explain the vitamin D paradox in black Americans,” Williams said.
The key to take away
If you’re concerned about a family history of breast cancer or want to stay as healthy as possible, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about your vitamin D levels.
It is important to do this before adding any new supplements to your wellness routine.
For example, McCullough emphasizes the need to review all of the supplements you take as they may already contain vitamin D.