Breast Cancer Patients Commonly Deficient in Vitamin D
Posted Jan 05 2011 10:29am
Numerous research studies, particularly in the last couple of years , have suggested that adequate blood levels of vitamin D appear to reduce breast cancer risk and improve a breast cancer patient's chances for better outcomes. Therefore, ensuring that we each are getting enough vitamin D appears to be a simple, yet important, part of our fight against breast cancer. Unfortunately, early studies have suggested that many breast cancer patients and breast cancer survivors are vitamin D deficient. Two new breast cancer studies confirm this vitamin D deficiency in breast cancer patients.
In one breast cancer study published in a recent issue of The Breast Journal, breast cancer researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 145 postmenopausal, non-metastatic breast cancer patients who were about to start breast cancer treatment with aromatase inhibitors. The breast cancer researchers reported that 43.5% of the breast cancer patients were deficient in vitamin D (blood levels less than 20 ng/ml), 34.5% had insufficient blood levels of vitamin D (blood levels of 20-29 ng/ml), and only 22% had sufficient (more than 30 ng/ml) blood levels of vitamin D. Overall, this meant that 78% of the breast cancer patients in this study had low blood levels of vitamin D.
In a separate breast cancer research study presented at the33rd Annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, breast cancer researchers examined the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in 391 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors who were being treated or had been treated with aromatase inhibitors. The study investigators reported that the overall average vitamin D level was 35 ng/ml; however, 35% of the breast cancer survivors in this study were considered to be vitamin D deficienct (less than 30 ng/ml). Interestingly, 74% of the breast cancer survivors in this study reported taking vitamin D supplements. Despite this supplementation, nearly 27% of these women were still deficient in vitamin D. This suggests that their vitamin D supplementation was still not at a high enough level to achieve adequate blood levels of vitamin D. Additionally, vitamin D deficiency was twice as common in non-white breast cancer survivors and about three times more likley in breast cancer survivors who were overweight or obese.
These are both interesting and important studies. While the second study reported a rate of vitamin D deficiency that was half of that reported in the first study, the second study included a high percentage of women who were taking vitamin D supplements. While many of these breast cancer survivors were still deficient in vitamin D, supplementation might have be responsible for the overall lower number of women who were deficient in vitamin D. Interestingly, both of these studies were done in breast cancer patients who were being treated with aromatase inhibitors, which have become more common as a breast cancer treatment. Breast cancer patients on aromatase inhibitors are generally at an increased risk for decreased bone density, which might be compounded by a lack of vitamin D. Therefore, while vitamin D appears to have a direct impact on breast cancer risk, it might also have an impact on the bone health of breast cancer patients treated with aromatase inhibitors. Both of these breast cancer studies clearly point out the importance of adequate vitamin D intake for breast cancer patients.