SAN DIEGO—Breast cancer patients with high levels of vitamin D in their blood are twice as likely to survive the disease as women with low levels of vitamin D, according to a new study published in the journal Anticancer Research. Previously, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with Alzheimer's disease and to the development of certain cancers and heart disease.
In previous studies, Cedric F. Garland, Ph.D., at the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s department of family and preventative medicine, showed that low vitamin D levels were linked to a high risk of premenopausal breast cancer. The finding prompted him to question the relationship between 25-hydroxyvitamin D—a metabolite produced by the body from the ingestion of vitamin D—and breast cancer survival rates.
For this study, Garland and colleagues performed a statistical analysis of five studies of 25-hydroxyvitamin D obtained at the time of patient diagnosis and their 9-year follow-up. Combined, the studies included 4,443 breast cancer patients.
“Vitamin D metabolites increase communication between cells by switching on a protein that blocks aggressive cell division," he said. “As long as vitamin D receptors are present tumor growth is prevented and kept from expanding its blood supply. Vitamin D receptors are not lost until a tumor is very advanced. This is the reason for better survival in patients whose vitamin D blood levels are high."
Women in the high serum group had an average level of 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood. The low group averaged 17 ng/ml. The average level in patients with breast cancer in the United States is 17 ng/ml.
A study published in January 2104 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found children are likely to have stronger muscles if their mothers had a higher level of vitamin D in their body during pregnancy. Low vitamin D concentrations are common among young women, suggesting women should consume higher amounts of vitamin D during pregnancy.