Calendars may serve little purpose to mark the month of October. We are simply inundated with the color pink. Countless objects in the public’s eye sport various shades of pink to remind us that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Why, after over 30 years of honoring annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pouring billions of dollars into conventional medical research, does breast cancer remain the most common cancer among women in the world?
Let’s rise above the ubiquitous pink when we think about diagnosing and treating breast cancer. And let’s nudge aside obscenely expensive diagnostic equipment and debilitating cancer drugs to consider a simple anti-cancer nutrient that many people have ignored for decades: vitamin D.
How about preventing breast cancer by reducing its risk with adequate vitamin D intake? And how about increasing survival rates by treating breast cancer with safe, inexpensive, and non-invasive vitamin D supplementation?
By attaining and maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in our bodies, we can potentially defend our lives against breast cancer.
Vitamin D’s Anti-Cancer Actions
Research over the past three decades indicates that vitamin D plays an essential role in regulating cellular activity. Adequate vitamin D in our bodies may protect us from the development of at least several types of cancer including breast, colon, and prostate.
Trillions of our cells contain vitamin D receptors (VDRs). These receptors receive, store, and, in many cases, produce vitamin D that activates anti-cancer functions such as cell regulation and gene expression.
If our body has sufficient amounts of activated vitamin D stored in its receptors, the vitamin D will incite natural cell death, preventing malignant growth. When cells do not behave normally, they can proliferate and become “rogue” cells that offer an inviting home for cancer development.
How Vitamin D May Prevent Breast Cancer
Breast (mammary gland) cells are replete with VDRs that receive, store, and produce activated vitamin D. If these VDRs are sufficiently active, they exude anti-cancer effects by: regulating cellular differentiation, proliferation, and natural death (apoptosis) in breast tissue, as well as gene expression. If the VDRs in breast tissue are not working at their optimal level, breast cancer may develop.
Extensive research including epidemiologic studies has suggested that inadequate levels of vitamin D may significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Recent examples include scientific studies that examined the role of vitamin D in breast cancer prevention:
Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Higher Breast Cancer Risk. Researchers conducted a case-control study of 3,634 Korean women diagnosed with breast cancer and 17,133 healthy controls to ascertain the relationship between vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk. The women deficient in vitamin D had a 27 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer than females who were considered vitamin-D-sufficient. The findings of the study were published in the July 2015 issue of the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
Higher Vitamin D Associated with Lower Breast Cancer Risk. The International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France conducted a large population-based, case-control study of Mexican women aged 35-69 years to understand better the association between vitamin D levels and risk of breast cancer among pre- and post-menopausal Mexican females. Published in the July 2012 issue of the journal Cancer Causes & Control, the study results indicate “an inverse association between circulating vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk among pre- and post-menopausal Mexican women.”
How Vitamin D May Treat Breast Cancer
Scientific evidence has proven that vitamin D receptors in breast tissue cells receive, store, and produce activated vitamin D. This fact alone suggests that vitamin D has the potential to treat breast cancer patients.
Mounting medical research indicates vitamin D plays a role in treating breast cancer. In addition, recent scientific studies that examined the role of vitamin D in breast cancer treatment show promising results:
Higher Vitamin D Levels Increase Breast Cancer Survival.
Researchers at the Catholic University of Korea investigated the vitamin D levels in 469 breast cancer patients over a four-year period. The conclusions of this study, reported in a 2015 edition of the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, suggest that maintaining an optimal vitamin D status at the time of diagnosis and at the one-year follow-up “is significantly associated with the survival of breast cancer patients. These findings may provide the grounds to justify clinical efforts to maintain and improve a patient’s [vitamin D] status through vitamin D supplementation…not only before diagnosis but also after surgery, to enhance breast cancer patients’ survival.”
A 2014 study, led by the University of California San Diego (USCD), offered a highly promising conclusion about the link between vitamin D and breast cancer mortality. After analyzing data from 4,443 breast cancer patients, the research team concluded that breast cancer patients who had an average vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) were about twice as likely to survive the disease than women with levels averaging 17 ng/mL (42.5 nmol/L).
The researchers also noted that the average vitamin D level in breast cancer patients in the United States is a paltry 17 ng/mL. Dr. Cedric Garland, a professor in UCSD’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine who participated in the study, suggested medical professionals consider adding vitamin D to breast cancer patients’ standard care regimens. The study, published in the March 2014 edition of the journal Anticancer Research, concluded that “all patients with breast cancer” should have vitamin D levels in the range of 30 to 80 ng/mL (75 to 200 nmol/L).
Vitamin D: A Less Toxic and Invasive Treatment.
In June 2015, the National Institute of Health awarded a $1.76 million grant to Dr. JoEllen Welsh and her research team at the University at Albany in New York to further their study on treating triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) with activated vitamin D. Dr. Welsh and her team discovered that activated vitamin D suppresses the expression of the hyaluronan synthase-2 (HAS-2) gene which overexpresses in specific TNBC tumors. The researchers are focused on targeting the HAS-2 gene and its actions with activated vitamin D to treat this deadly form of breast cancer.
A landmark study, published in a January 2013 edition of the Journal of Cell Biology, offered encouraging news about less toxic and invasive treatment therapies. Susan Gonzalo, Ph.D. at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and her associates successfully identified specific genes that ultimately protect against or promote the development of breast cancer cells.
The research team discovered a molecular pathway that contributes to TNBC and mutations in a tumor suppressor gene called BRCA1. When the BRCA1 gene in the molecular pathway degrades, tumor cells can proliferate. However, Dr. Gonzalo and her colleagues found that vitamin D can reduce cell proliferation by restoring high levels of 53BP1, a DNA repair function that can be impaired by BRCA1 degradation.
In addition, further research of tissue samples from breast cancer patients with BRCA1-mutated tumors or TNBC revealed a new set of three biomarkers (high levels of nuclear cathepsin L, decreased levels of 53BP1, and low vitamin D). This recently discovered triple-biomarker signature will help doctors identify patients who might benefit from customized treatment including vitamin D therapy.
Adequate vitamin D supplementation in concert with alternative and integrative treatments may overcome breast cancer. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may want to consider vitamin D therapy by consulting your health care practitioner.
Avoid Becoming a Breast Cancer Statistic with Vitamin D
The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. Why acquiesce to this projected statistic?
Vitamin D’s amazing capability to affect natural cell death and gene expression negates the opportunity for breast cancer cells to proliferate, develop into a tumor, and spread to other parts of the body. This fact alone should encourage everyone to ensure their vitamin D levels are adequate!
Compelling medical evidence supports the connection between vitamin D levels and the risk of developing breast cancer. High levels of vitamin D in the body directly correlate with a decreased risk of breast cancer.
Further, recent scientific studies suggest treating breast cancer with vitamin D. Vitamin D therapy is non-invasive, safe, and inexpensive.
With little effort and expense, you can increase your vitamin D levels to protect from developing breast cancer. Now is the time to Defend Your Life with vitamin D!
Editor’s Note: Susan Rex Ryan is dedicated to public awareness of vitamin D’s amazing health benefits. Find out more about vitamin D supplementation by joining her “Vitamin D Wellness” group on Facebook. Read her award-winning Defend Your Life to learn about the vast array of vitamin D benefits.
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