Higher Vitamin D May Mean Lower Cancer Risk
In today’s world, we are all looking for a miracle pill to cure all of our woes. We want to weigh less, have more energy, preserve our memory, prevent heart attacks, and while we are at it, lower our cancer risk.
That’s not too much to ask, right?
Right. But this latter one is really critical. After all, this year alone, more than 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, while more than half a million people will die from the disease.1 Sadly, nearly 40 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lives.1 That’s two out of every five people.
Given these dire numbers, it’s no wonder that researchers across the world are searching for not only a cancer cure, but, maybe even more importantly, something that offers cancer prevention. And it seems we just may have one in vitamin D.
It Lowers Breast Cancer, But Can It…
The idea that vitamin D is cancer-protective is nothing new, per se. In fact, several studies have shown that vitamin D is particularly beneficial when it comes to reducing breast cancer risk.
Two separate studies have shown that low plasma vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among post-menopausal white women.2-3 Conversely, a third study found that increased levels of vitamin D was associated with a decreased risk of developing breast cancer.4
While this is great news for breast cancer, researchers were curious if this inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and cancer risk could not only be replicated, but more importantly, if they could identify a “sweet spot” within the range of vitamin D concentrations.5
Two Large Studies, One Incredible Finding
To this end, researchers looked at the results from two large studies that both gathered data on vitamin D concentrations, indicated as serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D. They included the Lappe cohort (with 1,169 participants) and the GrassrootsHealth cohort (with 1,135 people). In the Lappe cohort, participants had an average 25(OH)D of 28 ng/mL, while in the GrassrootsHealth cohort, the average vitamin D levels were 43 ng/mL.
Next, researchers looked at cancer incidence in both cohorts over nearly four years. They included all invasive cancers, with the exception of skin cancer. They then compared those numbers with the vitamin D serum levels.
In the combined cohort, there were 2,304 people, 840 of whom had been found to have some form of cancer. Researchers learned that cancer incidence was lower in people with higher 25(OH)D levels. Moreover, women in particular with vitamin D levels at 40 ng/mL or higher had a 67 percent lower risk of cancer than those women whose vitamin D levels were less than 20 ng/mL.
Researchers concluded, “The findings from this analysis support the inverse association between 25(OH)D and risk of cancer and highlight the importance for cancer prevention of achieving a concentration substantially above 20 ng/ml.”
Rampant Vitamin D Deficiency
This is fantastic news, right? Higher levels of vitamin D is clearly shown to be cancer preventative. That IS great news, but the reality is we as a country are woefully vitamin D-deficient.
Heck, we are low across the globe. Stats indicate that nearly 50 percent of the worldwide population is deficient in D—an estimated one billion people! Here in the U.S., 41.6 percent of the population is vitamin D deficient, with 77 percent found to be vitamin D insufficient.
Clearly if we are to take advantage of these cancer-protective benefits, we have to get our vitamin D levels up—way up.
Drop Your Risk With D
Direct exposure to sunlight is the ideal way to get the vitamin D your body needs. However, the prolific use of sunscreen to protect against skin cancer has interfered with the body’s ability to absorb ultraviolet rays, so the body is often not able to naturally synthesize the vitamin D it needs every day.
You can get some vitamin D in your diet through foods such as oily, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as liver, cod liver oil, irradiated milk, and fortified foods such as milk, margarine, some orange juice, almond and rice drinks, and even infant formula.
However, due to its importance in overall health (particular cancer prevention), your greatest protection comes from vitamin D supplementation, particularly vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which as been shown to be more bioactive than the vitamin D2 form.6
A good daily intake for vitamin D3 is 2,000 IU day. However, this largely depends upon your current vitamin D status. To get to the “sweet spot” of 40+ ng/mL, you may need to use as much as 5,000-10,000 IU per day until you reach those levels, then you can drop down to a 2,000 IU maintenance dosage.
To determine your 25(OH)D, levels, ask your doctor for a 25-hydroxy D3 blood test today.
2. Park S, et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2015 Jul;152(1):147-54.
3. Kim Y, et al. BMC Cancer. 2014 Jan;1:29.
4. Chen P, et al. PLoS One. 2013;1:e49312.
5. McDonnell SL, et al. PLoS One. 2016;11(4):e0152441.
6. Armas LA. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89(11):5387-91.
Kimberly Day has spent the past 15 years uncovering natural and alternative health solutions. She was the managing editor for several of the world’s largest health newsletters including those from Dr. Susan Lark, Dr. Julian Whittaker and Dr. Stephen Sinatra. She has also penned several health-related newsletter and magazine articles, co-authored the book the Hormone Revolution with Dr. Susan Lark, contributed articles to Lance Armstrong’s consumer site livestrong.com, and created a number of health-related websites and blogs.
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