Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women in both, the developed and developing world. With the gradual shift in lifestyle and habits to a more unnatural and immobile way of existence, if we compare ourselves to our ancestors, the prevalence of different kinds of cancers has increased rapidly over the years. Unfortunately, while a lot of research is being carried out in this domain, no concrete evidence points to a definitive cure. At this juncture researchers and scientists have started to look into the effects of our modern sedimentary lifestyles to find possible links between the deficiencies that occur commonly as a result.
A very common deficiency in human beings throughout the world is that of Vitamin D. Clearly, we do not get enough sunlight anymore! Experts suggest that a mere 20 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight can enable the body to produce enough Vitamin D to fulfil your daily requirements. While we generally do get some of the required Vitamin D through exposure to the sun, most of our Vitamin D intake comes from fortified foods such as milk, juices and breakfast cereals. There are some natural food sources of Vitamin D. It can be found in fatty fish, fish liver oil and eggs. It is definitely worth the hassle to visit your doctor to get screened for any vitamin or mineral deficiencies you might have since their adequate consumption is vital for a healthy life.
Why is Vitamin D important?
Vitamin D enables the body to process Calcium and Phosphorous optimally which helps to strengthen bones and teeth. It also aids cell to cell communication throughout the body, as well as the immune system. Research suggests that Vitamin D lowers the risk of developing diseases and disorders like multiple sclerosis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack, tuberculosis and cancer. Moreover, adequate levels of Vitamin D in your system help regulate a healthy body weight and, believe it or not, it is believed to even protect against low levels of radiation!
Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin D
According to the Institute of Medicines of the National Academies, suggested daily intake of vitamin D is as follows:
- For people between the ages of 1-70: 15 micrograms
- For people above the age of 71: 20 micrograms
- For infants: 10 micrograms
Please keep in mind though, too much Vitamin D can be harmful since it increases Calcium levels to the point where deposits start forming inside the body leading to diseases like calcinosis. The upper daily limit of intake for anyone above the age of 8 is 100 micrograms. Another important thing to remember is that while natural sources are unlikely to cause toxicity through overdose, too much sunlight has harmful effects on your skin so it is important to balance your methods of intake between Vitamin D rich foods and exposure to sunlight.
The Link Between Breast Cancer and Vitamin D Intake
It is estimated that at least 1 out of Every 8 American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Women have a higher chance than men to develop the disease. There have been some observational studies that assess the connection between Vitamin D levels and the reduced risk and treatment of cancers. The National Cancer Institute , in their fact sheet on Vitamin D and cancer discuss early studies which show that incidence and death rates for certain cancers are lower in people living in southern latitude areas where exposure to sunlight is higher in comparison. Some research has also suggested that Vitamin D is found to have certain activities that slow down or prevent the development of cancer.
A detailed article published by the Vitamin D Council that focuses specifically on breast cancer is a must read if you wish to gain some insight into the depth of research undertaken to assess the link between two, and the reliability of the findings. It covers some general information about the disease as well. The studies they refer to imply that women who have breast cancer are observed to have low levels of Vitamin D in their body, this is especially true for post-menopausal females. At the same time, women who have higher levels of Vitamin D are less likely to develop breast cancer, and those women that do are probable to have smaller tumours with a lower incidence of death and recurrence.
A slightly technical article on Medical News Today that reviews a study on the link between low Vitamin D levels and an increased risk of breast cancer conducted by Professor Cedric F. Garland of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine summarizes his findings as follows:
“The team found that women who had high levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood had around a 50% lower fatality rate, compared with women who had low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood.”
These studies are limited in their reliability though, since the links developed are observational, i.e., they were noticed while experimenting for unrelated hypotheses. There is a probability that the reason for this coincidence could be the fact that adequate Vitamin D levels are an indication of a healthier lifestyle, therefore the actual deterrent to cancer could be any one of the benefits associated with healthy living.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, there have not been any studies that directly test Vitamin D as a cure to breast cancer, or that low levels increase the risk of developing it. If you suffer from breast cancer, or for whatever reason feel that you are at higher risk of developing it, taking adequate levels of Vitamin D intake certainly will not harm you in anyway and might even be beneficial. However, you should not consider it as a replacement for any medical treatment you might be prescribed or undergoing.
Despite the findings of the studies discussed being early in nature, there is clear evidence that people who live healthier lifestyles have lower risk of developing cancer, and even fighting it off till recovery. It is necessary to keep our vitamin and mineral levels in check regardless of whether we suffer from any sickness or are visibly healthy. Equally necessary, is to quit or control any unhealthy habits that we might possess like smoking, consuming alcohol or eating processed junk food. It is crucial to get enough exercise and exposure to the sun to allow the body to function optimally. Mostly though, it is good to stay informed about how you can improve your general health through supplying the body with its nutritional requirements, supplementing it with healthy activities, nutritious and fortified foods or multivitamins where necessary.