As women, we tend to fear breast cancer. Many more of us will die of heart disease, but we are much more likely to be scared of breast cancer than a heart attack!
There are many things that you can do to help reduce your risk of breast cancer, including eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excess alcohol and smoking, exercising regular and managing stress.
Did you know that Vit D can help as well?
There are quite a few studies linking low Vit D levels with increased risk of breast cancer. A recent one looked at over 3,000 women over age 55, and found that women with a Vitamin D level under 20 had 80% higher risk of breast cancer compared with women whose level was over 60.
Sharon McDonnell, the epidemiologist who headed the study, says ”Increasing vitamin D blood levels substantially above 20 ng/ml appears to be important for the prevention of breast cancer.”
This remains controversial, as the Institute of Medicine (now called the National Academy of Medicine) concluded that a Vitamin D level of 20 is adequate. In fact there is a lot of debate about whether we should even measure Vitamin D levels on the average person, and whether we should recommend Vitamin D supplements.
One of the problems with the research, and a cause for the debate, is that many studies looking at Vitamin D supplementation give lowish doses and don’t follow blood Vitamin D levels. If someone has a low Vitamin D level and is at high risk for a health problem (such as breast cancer) and we give a low dose of Vitamin D (for example 800IU as recommended by the Academy of Medicine) and don’t see a reduction in risk, it doesn’t mean that Vitamin D is not useful. It may mean that we only raised the Vitamin D level from 15 to 19, and it is still low!
So while Vitamin D may remain controversial for a while, research has shown that Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating your immune system. Your immune system is your first line of defense against cancer – your immune cells are supposed to find the abnormal cell and get rid of it before it has a chance to grow up to be a tumor.
So let the academics continue to debate. In the meantime, get your Vitamin D level checked. If it is below 60, your risk of breast cancer is increased. Get some sunshine and take a vitamin D supplement, then have your level retested in about 3 months to make sure you are taking the right dose. Once you are on Vitamin D, don’t stop just because your level is improved. If you stop, over time your level will drop right back down again! Make sure your doctor is monitoring your Vitamin D level for you. And don’t forget to eat your broccoli, move your muscles, limit the wine, and meditate!