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Vitamin D: More Effective in Fighting Breast Cancer than Wearing Pink?
In October - National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we will continue reporting on various studies for readers of our website, Blogger or Twitter pages, particularly those who wear pink to support the campaign to raise awareness of this terrible disease, some ideas on how to prevent it. Research currently suggests that eating a diet, using olive oil and other oils high in oleic acid, and limiting intake of corn oil and other oils high in linoleic acid may help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Here we report on a study which suggests that maintaining high levels of serum vitamin D may help prevent breast cancer. The study, however, does not prove conclusively that vitamin D deficiency is the cause of an increased risk of breast cancer, although the possibility can't be definitively ruled out.
Vitamin D deficiencies have already been associated with an elevated risk of about 20 cancers including breast cancer, according to Dr. John Cannell, a vitamin D expert and director of vitamin D Council. This sunshine vitamin may also have a protective effect against other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and various infections, among other ailments.
For the current study, Engel P and colleagues from Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, Université Paris-Sud in Villejuif Cedex, France examined the association between high 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D serum levels and reduced breast cancer risk among premenopausal and postmenopausal women. They compared 636 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 1272 women without the disease for their serum levels of vitamin D. Study subjects and controls were matched based on age, menopausal status at blood collection, age at menopause and the locations and dates of collection.
Women in the tertile of the highest level of vitamin D were found 27 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to those in the lowest tertile. (Tertile means any of the two points that divide an ordered distribution into three parts). Among women at the age of 53 or younger, those with the highest levels of vitamin D were associated with a 40 percent reduced risk of breast cancer; premenopausal women with the highest levels of the vitamin also showed a reduced risk, albeit the reduction in risk was not as dramatic as it was among the older women
The findings were published in the Sep 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.
The researchers wrote "Our findings support a decreased risk of breast cancer associated with high 25(OH) vitamin D(3) serum concentrations, especially in younger women, although we were unable to confirm a direct influence of age or menopausal status."
It should be noted that this is a case-control study, meaning that it did not prove a causal relation between vitamin D and breast cancer risk.Engel et al maintain that randomized intervention trials with vitamin D supplementation are needed to confirm that high vitamin D levels are protective against the development of breast cancer.
It is hoped that those who wear pink during the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month may also garner information from reports like this, so they may become aware of how to better protect themselves.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among New Zealand women, with more than 2500 new cases expected this year - also approximately 20 men will be diagnosed1.
• More than 600 women will die from the disease this year - making it the leading cause of cancer-related death in females.
• 1 in 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime2.
• 90-95% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
• Getting older is the most common risk factor: over 70% of new cases are among women 50years and over.
• Women of all ages, especially those over the age of 40 years, need to be ‘breast aware'.