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Vitamin D's Role in Fighting Breast Cancer

Vitamin D plays an important role in helping fight breast cancer.
PUBLISHED October 27, 2016
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Vitamin D is an important supplement that plays a role in helping fight cancer. While undergoing radiation therapy, I became extremely fatigued. After checking my bloodwork, which showed my vitamin D level was not in the proper range, my oncologist prescribed a very large amount of vitamin D3.

Vitamin D is important for helping build bones and allowing the body to absorb calcium. It is needed for a healthy immune system. Vitamin D helps fight infections and prevent the development of autoimmune diseases. The best source of vitamin D is found naturally in bright sunshine. Short periods of sun exposure can give more than the recommended daily amount of vitamin D. Sun exposure offers great benefits, but also has risks, such as increasing the risk of skin cancer. So, it’s important to wear sunscreen anytime you’re out in the sunshine. We can also get vitamin D from foods we eat. Foods such as salmon, mackerel, egg yolks, fortified milk and dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, cereals and breads are all good sources of vitamin D.

But there’s a problem. Since many of us spend more time indoors with computers and electronic devices, the levels of vitamin D in our bodies suffer. Without natural sunshine, there is a greater need to supplement. Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation often cause extreme fatigue and loss of energy. These treatments can deplete the body’s levels of vitamin D, requiring prescription doses to bring the levels back up. A vicious cycle begins and can continue for many, many months.

According to an article by Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Women who lack vitamin D may be at greater risk for the most aggressive breast cancer and expect a poorer prognosis. The study, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, is one of the first to examine vitamin D and breast cancer progression. Researchers found that more aggressive cancers, such as triple-negative tumors, correlated with low vitamin D levels. The study also found both premenopausal women and African American women tended to have sub-optimal vitamin D levels, compared to older, Caucasian women.
“This is one of the first studies to really look at the relationship between vitamin D and progression of breast cancer,” said Jason Stevens, a clinical dietician at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, OK. He also states, “Growing evidence suggests that maintaining an adequate vitamin D level may be important to women for both breast cancer prevention and treatment, and women should discuss vitamin D with their clinical care team to ensure they are getting the best treatment based on their individual needs.”

Only a medical professional can determine your levels of vitamin D. It’s important to be regularly tested. If your levels are low, supplements can be added to bring the levels into proper range. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient to maintaining optimal health.

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