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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Breast Cancer Risk

Breast cancer cells. Courtesy of NCI

A new study published online in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society concludes that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to increased risk of breast cancer.

Globally, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed tumor and the leading cause of cancer death in women. There are several known contributors to breast cancer development, including early onset puberty, late menopause, later age at first pregnancy, and obesity. However, the prevalence of vitamin D as a precursor to the disease has remained largely unexplored.

In a study of 627 postmenopausal Brazilian women aged 45 to 75, including 209 patients with breast cancer and 418 cancer-free controls, researchers sought to distinguish vitamin D's role in the onset of breast cancer. Results showed that 55.6% of the women with breast cancer presented with insufficient levels of vitamin D, compared with 49.3% of the control group. Whereas vitamin D deficiency was found in 26.2% of those with breast cancer, it was only found in 20.3% of the healthy controls. In addition, women with the highest concentrations of vitamin D were found to have a 50% lower mortality rate from breast cancer than those with the lowest vitamin D levels.

These observations suggest that vitamin D levels should be closely monitored in all women with breast cancer and restored to a healthy range when levels are low.

"Although published literature is inconsistent about the benefits of vitamin D levels and breast cancer, this study and others suggest that higher levels of vitamin D in the body are associated with lowered breast cancer risk," says JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, executive director of The North American Menopause Society. "Vitamin D may play a role in controlling breast cancer cells or stopping them from growing."

For More Information

Machado MRM, de Sousa Almeida-Filho B, De Luca Vespoli H, et al (2018). Low pretreatment serum concentration of vitamin D at breast cancer diagnosis in postmenopausal women. Menopause. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1097/GME.0000000000001203 

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