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New study shows link between sun exposure and breast density

Posted on: July 12, 2013   by  Brant Cebulla


New research out of Hong Kong suggests that sunlight across the lifespan may decrease the risk of breast cancer.

One strong risk factor for breast cancer are particularly dense breasts. Density and density patterns can be assessed using the well-known screening tool, mammograms. When looking at breast density via a mammogram, there are a few different scales developed to describe the density and density pattern of the breast, with scales generally ranging from non-dense to dense.

One such classification scale is the Tabár classification, which grades patterns I-V. Patterns I, II and III are considered low risk for breast cancer, while patterns IV and V are considered high risk for breast cancer.

In this recent study, Dr Sheng-Hui Wu and colleagues wanted to know, does past sunlight exposure correlate with breast density? And subsequently, does sunlight correlate with breast cancer risk?

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21 Responses to New study shows link between sun exposure and breast density

  1. Rita and Misty

    I write this comment so that other woman may benefit:

    I was diagnosed with dense breast tissue at age 18.

    At age 28 I had my first benign breast tumor removed.

    At age 36 I had my second benign breast tumor removed.

    At age 40 I had my first 25(OH)D test. I tested at 32 ng/ml on 6,000 iu d3 daily.

    Three years ago, at age 45, an ultra sound was suspicious. My breasts were termed extremely dense by a “super ultra-sensitive mammogram.” I think this dang machine gave me enough radiation for an entire lifetime.

    I am of Jewish ancestry on my mom’s side (although I did not share this information with the technician, who for some reason kept hounding me on this subject. 🙂 )

    I can tell you though, that since my 25(OH)D level has risen above 74 ng/ml my breasts are NO LONGER DENSE. I caps these words because it is absolutely amazing to me not to be in pain every single day of my life. BTW:(although many of you will think I am simply bonkers) I know my breasts are fine by the “old fashioned” method, as I refuse to submit to another mammogram of the “super ultra sensitive” machinery or the “typical” type.

    I’m sure I will take another mammogram in the future, just cannot predict when, though. That amount of radiation truly scares me, and my particular institution has a disbelief of thermal breast tests. So, for now, the self-test will have to suffice.

  2. D-fiant

    Hi Rita, we meet again in this cone of secrecy called the internet, Maxwell Smart would be pleased. (Yes I know it was “Cone of silence” in his case, but that does not fit here)

    The topic of cancer gets a “big blip” on my radar, I have mentioned my PC before – no more news there, until I see the doc next month and get another PSA (I am taking 20K iu’s a day and I am at 82ng/ml, my highest ever).

    But this story is on breast cancer, and there is a point at the end of my story. I have mentioned my sister in law has had an op for BC and now a second op and will go though chemo and they said she will lose her hair. I was sorry to hear that, but at this “pre-event” stage she is feeling very brave about it. I had to watch our son go through that last year (he had / has NHL). I must say he did in absolute stunning style. He was amazing how he handled it. But now he has grown a beard and just loves it. I can’t blame him for that.

    Under this cone of secrecy I can mention here, but I am not allowed to mention elsewhere, that my wife has had a call back on her mammogram, she had an ultrasound, they found nothing, but she will be having more tests. My wife is 2 year younger than her sister.

    Now as it turns out my wife and I have an uncommon, but not necessarily rare history, by this I mean, we met when she was just 14, that was 42 years ago and I still love her to bits. (Now everyone is doing the maths)

    But to link all of this back to the story at hand, my recollection of her at that time was that she had very white skinned…fairly pale.

    At 14, she is only 2 years away from the 6 to 12 window of opportunity to get sunshine. She got lots more sunshine later as this dashing young man, who had a car, took her to the beach often. (yes, I think people did talk)

    My wife at that stage (being a 14 year girl) would have been a product of her family lifestyle and as such it is very likely her sister would also have not received much sun.

    And now, all these years later we are seeing things unfold.

    (PS… did I mention I am 30 years younger than my wife…….hmmm I don’t think that is going to fly!)

  3. Rita and Misty


    🙂 I hope you’ll understand my statement below. It is only in my opinion, and from my own personal experience. I enjoy your comments tremendously. And, as much as your cloak of secrecy allows, I consider you a friend.

    Regarding vitamin d, I not a big (huge) fan of secrecy as I think it detracts from the message.

    Vitamin d is a very controversial subject, and I find people feel more comfortable actually knowing that the person taking 28,000 iu d3 daily is a real, live person–not some whacked-out anonymous psycho. We have lots and lots of psychos in this world, and It necessary to differentiate between the “forward thinking” and “the crazy” imo. Maintaining a cloak of secrecy makes this differentiation process difficult. Sometimes ya just gotta put your name and reputation out there, for all to see…it takes courage–just ask Dr. John Cannell. I greatly admire this quality about him–it’s true bravery he exhibits regarding vitamin d.

    When I share with friends, my experiences with D, and they see how well I look now, and I awful I looked just five years ago, (and they know my propensity for all things healthy and nutritional), they LISTEN.

    I have in the past posted my phone number here on open cyberspace, in an attempt to reach out to others interested in hearing my story (and in a selfish attempt to improve for me what is the terrible isolation I experience in cyberspace). I work much better, stronger, and harder as part of a living, breathing, physical team. 🙂 The internet (imo) needs to be a supplement to physical experience, not the entire diet.

    Regarding the age difference between you and your wife, my opinion is this: Whatever works for the couple is what is right for the couple!! Life is short; so if you are lucky to find any love at all, you are indeed fortunate. 🙂

    But personally, I like my men older 🙂 and 15–20 years older is where my target is solidly set. (I’m born in ’65. Do the math in your head–calculators not allowed).

    Be well,

  4. D-fiant

    Hi Rita,
    The last note to my email was a joke; I am 3.5 years older than my wife and a 53 born.

    I too push Vit D to all my friends, but I am very wary of my direct family as they can take huge offence, and all I am trying to do is give them news to help them.

    I did relay this current story to my son by email as we have two granddaughters in the 6 to 12 age group. I have not heard anything yet, and it would be best that I don’t raise it for fear of pushing my luck too far.

    My success with getting friends to take Vit D (apart from youngest son, the one with nhl) has been very poor. But I will say that my wife tries to take more, but she gets light headed with not much more than 1,000 iu/day. She was 39 ng/ml but has dropped back to 28ng/ml she is trying to take more. Her sister who has the BC was tested last week and is 18ng/ml. Her doctor said that was too low and increased her from 1,000iu/day to 2,000iu/day. You and I would both agree that this is way too low, but there would be almost no way I could get her to take more.

    Some of my frustrations are.

    My step brother has PC but would not listen to me and take any Vit D, he had his prostate removed week and a half ago.

    My other step brother (brother to above) had a op last week for throat cancer, I have spoken to him a long time ago – I am sure he is doing nothing. (he had his prostate removed about a year and a half before his younger brother above) I have a third step brother, but looks like he will last forever.

    When I got PC my cousin thought he better get another PSA done – 3 to 4 weeks ago he found out he was 10, I sent him lots of stuff on Vit D, he said I will wait for the MRI for confirmation before doing anything, this was confirmed last week with two masses in the very lowest part of his prostate. As far as I know he not taking anything. He is now waiting for a biopsy for further confirmation…what else does he need? (I will add that this biopsy is going to be very difficult to do)

    A friend, who I spoke to this morning he is in palliative stage with bowel cancer, he might be taking 1,000iu/day I told him I am taking 20K, he was unmoved by this.

    A very close friend is a diabetic, (2 to 3 needles per meal) I told him that it would help. He is taking none.

    I did have some success with a friend who also has bowel cancer, but he should be ok, (not because of Vit D, it was found earlier) he and his wife are now taking some, where once they were taking none.

    Our grandson, who is autistic, gets no supplementary Vit D.

    My other son is trying to have children by ivf, but I have to be very careful about mentioning things about how Vit D can help. As far as I know he and his wife are taking none.

    So I suppose I am feeling a bit defeated this end and sometimes I like to keep a lower profile and I am not as confident and open as you are. Almost nobody is listening to me and probably why I pour my heart out sometimes on this site.

    Regarding confidentially, I lay out some private stuff about other people, if I put my name here I would expose them, which I would hate to do. I trust you will understand.

    Bye for now

  5. IAW

    I remember everything that you and your son are going through so you are not new to this site.You said “But I will say that my wife tries to take more (D), but she gets light headed with not much more than 1,000 iu/day.” So has she tried lot’s of co-factors especially magnesium. (One of the better magnesiums per the chart at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/?

  6. Rita and Misty

    This comment addresses both d-fiant and IAW 🙂


    You may have been joking about age differences between couples, but I wasn’t. 🙂 I’m always upfront and direct. I daresay you’ve figured that out by now. In other words, I know my mind.

    Regarding confidentiality–certainly we must keep information about others private, if this is their expressed desire.

    But, I do think it is much more powerful to be authentic and genuinely available to others. This is how I choose to live.

    People do read us–and imo just saving one life makes a difference. If I had my way, I’d bring the world here. This is an awesome organization.

    @IAW: I have known several individuals who have commenced high-dose vitamin d supplementation; and shortly thereafter have experience flu-like symptoms. I’ve often wondered if this were attributable to a magnesium deficiency.

    Be well, both of you.

  7. D-fiant

    To IAW
    I have been thinking about what you have said regrading the magnesium, I have also done a check back to my wife about when she becomes lightheaded.

    Current situation.
    She gets light headed when she takes 2,000 iu not 1,000 as I have said.(my mistake)

    Because she is much smaller than I am, I thought I would look at the iu’s per pound.
    Wife – 2,000iu / 132 lb = 15 iu/lb
    Compare to me ……20,000 / 232lb = 86 iu/lb

    On Dr Mercola’s site http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/10/10/vitamin-d-experts-reveal-the-truth.aspx he says 35 iu/lb is advisable. So based on this scale she is not excessive.

    Now regarding the balance of mag intake – I was thinking; what would happen if she went out in the sun and got a 15K iu hit of Vit D. Would she become lightheaded…she thinks not.

    So either there is a difference between Vit D tables and Vit D from the sun or it should not be the mag as being the problem.

    Does this fit with your thinking.

    Best regards

    PS I am looking to cut my intake in half when I reach 100 ng/ml, but something funny seems to be happening in these high blood levels regarding iu’s consumed and ng/ml increases achieved. Maybe more on this later when I have the facts to hand.

  8. Rita and Misty

    Gentlemen: I just ran to the bathroom scale to double-check my weight.

    Currently, I am 108 lbs, including sopping wet hair.

    It is Connecticut’s version of summer here where I live; and so I am now supplementing with 16,000 iu d3 daily plus 2.5 hours per week of high noon sun.

    In winter, I take around 28,000–30,000 iu d3 daily.

    I haven’t yet made a commitment to the Sperti sunlamp. This doesn’t mean I will never make such a commitment; after all never is such a final word, isn’t it? It simply means that the sunlamp does not fit in with my current needs as we speak. 🙂 Even though I do know such a commitment would ultimately benefit me…..

    Back to my d3 protocol:

    During PMS week, I take 50,000 iu d3 daily all year ’round (this works wonders for me; and if any of you happen to be “friends” with me, you will agree).

    During times of illness, I take 100,000 iu d3 daily until the illness is gone.

    I do take all the recommended co-factors–in larger doses than recommended, perhaps.

    D-fiant, your 25(OH)D level will plateau upon reaching a certain level, and though you may still be taking high doses of d3, the rate of increase will taper off…

  9. IAW

    To: D-Fiant
    In regards to “but something funny seems to be happening in these high blood levels regarding iu’s consumed and ng/ml increases achieved.” By any chance does the ng/ml increases get smaller?

    So about your wife. When you said ” and got a 15K iu hit of Vit D, would she become lightheaded…she thinks not.” Here is the problem or a different way to think about it. When you go out in the sun, your body can self regulate. So let’s say she has a magnesium deficiency (or some other deficiency), she goes out in the sun, her body goes “whoops” not enough magnesium to go with the Vitamin D, so down regulate what we were going to produce. You think she makes 15K but maybe she does not. The only way to tell that would be a blood test right after going out or knowing what your starting level is going out in the sun faithfully at the same time of day and for the same length of time and then see if your level is increasing.
    Here is a person that made the same complaint http://paleohacks.com/questions/101221/vitamin-d-without-magnesium-weird-side-effects#axzz2Z1mYiU00
    I truly believe that any adult should be able to take at least 5k and if they have some kind of side effect it is not the “D” but something else causing it like lack of a co-factor. I suppose you could also try switching which Vitamin D you take, the one from cod liver oil or the one from sheep. How much magnesium does she take a day and what kind? If she is not taking any supplemental magnesium and thinks she is OK because her blood level of magnesium is Ok, think again. A long time ago my blood level was OK but when I had the fancy test that looks directly at the cell level, I was extremely deficient!

  10. Rita and Misty

    @IAW–Does your comment suggest taking Cod Liver Oil? I may be slightly confused, but I am of the thought that Cod Liver Oil contains way too much Vitamin A.

    The readership may consider reviewing the attached article:

    Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health
    M. Nathaniel Mead

    And, IAW: your 25(OH)D level will plateau upon reaching a certain level, and though you may still be taking high doses of d3, the rate of increase will taper off…

    Sunlight certainly confers much more than supplementation.

  11. IAW

    NO did not mean take cod liver oil. Some Vitamin D supplements are made from extracting the D from cod liver oil and some are made from sheep’s wool. I really do not think this would make a difference to anyone’s system but who knows. So you may want to switch from one to the other to see if it stops whatever problem you are having. I REALLY put my money on low magnesium or other co-factor!!!!

  12. Rita and Misty


    I love my cofactors–especially magnesium, which relaxes me and regulates me.

    I also love boron (highly underrated imo).

    I also wonder if iodine needs to be considered a co-factor of D?

    I wish I had a personal physician I trusted. At this stage in my life I just don’t, but life is a journey, isn’t it? Who knows what the future holds. 🙂

    If I had a trustworthy and intelligent physician, I would ask him/her to consider whether all my health issues had bee due to a sick thyroid gland.

    My own lay(wo)man’s thoughts are that, yes indeed, I was a sub-clinical hypothyroid case–and that d3 and iodine worked in synergism to correct my health problems.

    These are just my musings….

    The reason I promote D3 is that (for me) it has been literally a life-saver. Let’s remember that I am one of those weird granola-crunchy girls, reared on Adelle Davis and Rodale..and someone who had been taking co-factors prior to d3.

    Luckily for me, my mom also believed that kids belong outside. Since infancy, I have practiced the iguana pose every chance given to me.

    Be well,

  13. D-fiant

    Hi Guys,
    Well, a lot happens when you sleep. I am from Australia.

    Because I am not from your part of the world I don’t always understand some of the things you say. “reared on Adelle Davis and Rodale” ????
    “Iguana pose” I assume that is something you do in the sun? …..No details necessary.

    To IAW
    I read the article link to mag requirements and Vit D… Thanks for that.

    My wife doesn’t take any co-factors but she does eat some nuts. I take some co-factors, but then, I am the crazy vitamin taker in the house, she is fitter and healthier than me and she traditionally takes nothing to assist her.
    I take 300mg of mag per day; she says she will join me with his.

    Rita your iu per lb intakes are interesting.
    Normally 16,000iu / 108lb = 148
    When unwell 100,000iu / 108lbs = 925
    I would have thought you were heading for toxicity with these numbers. How is your calcium levels? I like to have mine on the low side of normal.

    Regarding my blood levels tapering off, that certainly appears to be the case with me.

    On a different tact I am getting a lot of joint pains lately, do you think this is Vit D related??


  14. Rita and Misty

    Greetings d-fiant,

    My calcium level runs to the high end of normal, around 10…I’m not concerned. I do not supplement with any calcium…my calcium comes from healthy food sources such as organic yogurt and cheese. No cows milk for me, though… I use fortified almond milk in its place.

    Regarding 25(OH)D level, I am lax in testing…I purchased the test about a month ago, but life has been getting in my way recently. The last time I tested was January. As readers may remember, my level was 104 ng/ml at that time. I exhibit absolutely no physical signs of toxicity. For example, I have a very healthy appetite: I eat like a horse, and I do not have excessive thirst, etc.

    D-fiant…at 48 years of age I am finally healthy. As a matter of fact, I did not realize just how unhealthy I really was, until correcting for vitamin d deficiency. Now, I sleep soundly thru the night…no peri-menopausal symptoms whatsoever (let’s remember how old I am). Whatever occasional blues I might have experienced in my daily living have simply vanished, especially since upping my dosage of d3 during pms week. That doesn’t mean my life is perfect. My life (trust me) is far from perfect, but life’s curve balls just don’t hit me emotionally like they used to…

    I do eat organic fruits, seeds and nuts as a way to get my minerals, but I tend to believe we’ve depleted our Earth’s soil…so I am dubious about the mineral content in the foods we eat–including organic foods.

    Adelle Davis was my mom’s inspiration in rearing me~~I am my mother’s little flower child; her living experiment in healthy lifestyle choices (think I’m spoiled, you haven’t a clue…) 🙂

    Please see link on Adelle Davis: http://adelledavis.org/

    The writings of Rodale were also a prominent part of my household:


    And, I am the better for my upbringing, for sure! ~~ But, I am still very spoiled!!

  15. Rita and Misty

    @d-fiant~~I have posted a comment to you, but it appears waiting for moderator’s approval..

    Regarding your joint pain, I think your magnesium intake may be too low. I would try 600 mg magnesium daily. In my opinion, this will help with the joint pain.

    Be well, and please look here later for my earlier comment.

  16. D-fiant

    Hi Rita
    I will give the extra mag a try.


  17. D-fiant

    Hi Rita,

    # Started extra mag today.
    # I try to keep my calcium on the low side because it can interfere with Vit D in the prostate.
    # Maybe I will get a surge of health when I get to 100ng/ml

    Bye for now

  18. Rita and Misty


    I think that an optimal 25(OH)D level makes life healthier, happier and more productive–but let us remember that there is no “cure” for death…. So many people seek a cure for death rather than the ingredients necessary for living a beneficial life.

    Unfortunately, if you’re a man and you live long enough, you will end up with a prostate issue.

    Most men, again if they live long enough, will ultimately get prostate cancer. Most will get Gleason 6, 3+3; and they will in all likelihood die with this cancer rather than from it (this is my opinion, based upon my own research).

    Although many people will disagree with me, I do think that overall, most men have not benefited from the most up-to-date scientific tests for prostate cancer (this is my imo-only).

    Does calcium interfere with vitamin d in the prostate? Yes, I do think there is enough research pointing to this correlation that I would agree. But, I tend to think it is a lifetime of calcium consumption coupled with low vitamin d that causes a prostate problem. Stopping dairy products upon prostate cancer diagnosis…well..honestly…I doubt that it will reverse the cancer. But, certainly it (might) slow down the progress of what is often a very slow disease in general.

    I do think if I had any type of cancer, or propensity towards any type of cancer, I would keep my 25(OH)D level at the higher end of optimal. This is only my opinion.

    Be well,

  19. D-fiant

    Hi Rita,
    Re calcium.
    What I said was; that I try to keep my calcium on the low side of normal. I have not stopped taking calcium.

    I just avoid high calcium products most of the time. But having said that, I have about 6 + cups of coffee a day and one of these is made on milk and the rest all have a big dash of milk.

    My stance on calcium hardly changed when I was diagnosed as I have had this attitude for a while now, but now I try and stick a bit more closely to this aim.

    I actually came across a calcium test result last night for this year and I am about middle of the range. The stats say those men who have “High” calcium intake have a higher chance of the dangerous prostate cancer. So I am not high.

    I disagree with your comment that if you have been having a lot of calcium all your life then stopping now won’t help.. Calcium has been shown to block Vit D from doing its job within the cell. So if we can get the calcium out and the vit D in – then I think your chances are increased.

    I also take Vit K2 to help with calcium management.

    I am Gleason score 3+3 now, with a note from the pathologist that because of ADC score (whatever that is) of 545 a Gleason score 4 is a likely component. Thus 3+4 (maybe)

    The referring specialist suggested a “nerve sparing radical prostatectomy” I then went to the surgeon and he gave me 3 months to trial Vitamin D. He said it will not work but I will give you 3 months. So in about 3 weeks I go back for a PSA test to see if anything has happened.

    I am taking 20,000iu / day at the moment. My last test result was 80.8 ng/l.

    I have just done a review of all of my available test results going back a year and looked at my daily increase. At 20,000 iu I am only increasing at he rate of .07 ng/ml per day.

    I am thinking of going to 30,000?? my target is 100ng/ml

  20. Rita and Misty


    I’m concerned that this particular blog section might not be the appropriate forum to discuss what I know about prostate cancer.

    I do know quite a bit.

    I am providing two email addresses for you, or any of the readership, who would like to correspond with me on this subject, offline. Of course, please remember that I am not a physician, nor am I a healthcare professional. Life simply has provided me with opportunity learn about such things.

    [email protected]; or,
    [email protected]

    If the Vitamin D Council feels that it is beneficial for me to comment here, I am also very happy to do so–it is whatever is most appropriate for the Vitamin D Council. 🙂

    Be well,

  21. Kata76

    @D-fiant: may I ask you, what was your result at the PSA test?
    You wrote: “The referring specialist suggested a “nerve sparing radical prostatectomy” I then went to the surgeon and he gave me 3 months to trial Vitamin D. He said it will not work but I will give you 3 months. So in about 3 weeks I go back for a PSA test to see if anything has happened.”

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