It’s that time again. We’ll be seeing football teams dressed in pink and pink ribbons everywhere. Yep, it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). NBCAM is a collaboration put together by public service organizations, medical associations, and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share info on the disease, provide increased access to services, and continue breast cancer research.
In the United States, breast cancer affects 230,000 women each year. Approximately 20% of women diagnosed with breast cancer die from the disease. Over the course of a woman’s life, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Family History – You may have a higher risk of breast cancer if you have a close relative who had breast, uterine, ovarian, or colon cancer.
- Lifetime estrogen exposure – Includes estrogen taken orally and produced in the body.
- Alcohol consumption – Drinking more than 1-2 drinks per day may increase your risk for breast cancer.
- Childbirth – Women who have never had children or who have children after the age of 30 have an increase risk for breast cancer.
- High meat and dairy intake – Eating a diet high in animal products early in life causes increased production of estrogen during the course of a lifetime.
Vitamin D and breast cancer
Research has shown vitamin D blocks the growth of breast cancer tumor cells. The active form of vitamin D, calcitriol persuades cells to commit apoptosis, or cell death. Calcitriol has also been shown to limit blood supply to the breast tumor.
A recent study in Belgium reported that high vitamin D levels at the time of diagnosis was significantly associated with increased overall survival. The researchers also found that low vitamin D status was associated with larger tumor size.
A groundbreaking randomized control trial demonstrated how 1,100 IU vitamin D3/day plus calcium reduced the risk of developing all-cancer risk by 77% in post-menopausal women.
The rate of breast cancer appears to decrease by 30% when vitamin D serum levels are greater than 40 ng/mL compared to levels below 20 ng/mL.
How can you help?
Make sure you encourage women in your life to stay up to date with their mammograms, especially if they have family history of breast cancer. Also, remember men can develop breast cancer as well, make sure they check for abnormalities as well. Prevention of all types of cancer involves eating a well balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol intake.
Encourage friends and family to participate is breast cancer awareness events which often raise funds for breast cancer treatment research. Based on the research, we suggest supplementing with 5,000 IU vitamin D/day on days you do not get adequate sun exposure. For more information visit our breast cancer health condition page.