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To Block Breast Cancer: Lots More Vitamin D

February 23, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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To prevent breast cancer, ingest more vitamin D—a lot more. So say researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska.

“We found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 4,000 to 8,000 IU are needed to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases—breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes,” said Cedric Garland, PhD, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

Dr. Garland was quoted in a UC San Diego news release. He continued:

I was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high—much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU per day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century.

“I was not surprised by this,” said Robert P. Heaney, MD, a professor of medicine at Creighton. “This result was what our dose-response studies predicted, but it took a study such as this, of people leading their everyday lives, to confirm it.”

(A personal aside: The release describes Dr. Heaney as “a distinguished biomedical scientist who has studied vitamin D need for several decades.” He was already an eminence as far back as my undergrad days at Creighton. And I’m class of ’75.)

The study, published Monday in Anticancer Research,  involved 3,667 volunteers whose self-reported daily vitamin D supplement intake ranged from none to more than 10,000 IU. Self-administered blood tests measured the level of 25-vitamin D, the form in which almost all vitamin D circulates in the blood.

“Most scientists who are actively working with vitamin D now believe that 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter is the appropriate target concentration of 25-vitamin D in the blood for preventing the major vitamin D deficiency-related diseases, and have joined in a letter on this topic,” Dr. Garland said. “Unfortunately, according to a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, only 10 percent of the U.S. population has levels in this range, mainly people who work outdoors.”

Should breast cancer actually develop, University of Missouri researchers say, a molecule called Ro 48-8071 may be able to kill it without damaging normal cells—while reducing cholesterol at the same time. Drugs versions are a long way from human testing, let alone clinical availability, but you can read about the intriguing possibilities in a University of Missouri news release.

Related seminar: Pittsburgh Breast Imaging Seminar

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