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Sun exposure may be key to surviving breast cancer, study suggests

by , 30 December 2017
Sun exposure may be key to surviving breast cancer, study suggests
A body of epidemiologic studies suggest that people with higher blood levels of vitamin D, otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, are at lower risk for colorectal cancer.

Now, a new study published in the JAMA Oncology suggests that the same may hold true for breast cancer...

The study found that women with optimal vitamin D levels also had a better chance of surviving breast cancer. To understand the role that vitamin D plays in surviving breast cancer, keep reading.

Study associates higher vitamin D levels with better chance of surviving breast cancer

For the study, Song Yao, an associate professor of oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo in New York, and his team of researchers analysed data from nearly 1,700 breast cancer patients living in California.
Yao and his team found that higher vitamin D levels at the time of diagnosis were linked to better overall survival of the cancer. They also found that this association was strongest in premenopausal women.
What’s more, researchers found that lower vitamin D levels in patients with advanced stage-tumours and the lowest levels in premenopausal women with triple-negative cancer (the most common breast cancer found in women with changes in a gene called BRCA1).


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“Our findings provide compelling observational evidence for inverse associations between vitamin D levels and risk of breast cancer progression and death,” Yao reported.
While these findings support those of previous studies, Yao notes that other factors may play a role and this study doesn’t prove cause and effect.

How to optimise your vitamin D levels to improve your chance of surviving breast cancer

Apart from lowering your risk of dying from breast cancer, vitamin D is essential for strong bones, healthy muscles and optimal overall health. Here are a few simple ways to maximise your vitamin D levels to reap these health benefits:
  • Eat vitamin D-rich foods: Excellent sources include eggs, liver, and fatty fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon. Some margarines and low-fat milks have added vitamin D. Food, however, only makes up about 10% of your body’s overall vitamin D levels and it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.
  • Eat enough calcium: Vitamin D and calcium work hand in hand. Make sure you get enough calcium by including a selection of dairy products, leafy vegetables, fish, tofu, Brazil nuts and almonds in your diet. 
  • Be careful out in the sun: UV radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. You should only spend time in the sun until your skin turns slightly pink from the heat.
  • Exercise daily: Regular exercise assists with the production of vitamin D.
  • Never use a solarium to increase vitamin D: A solarium gives off dangerous UV radiation, which can boost your risk of skin cancer.
PS: Did you know that vitamin D plays a role not only in breast cancer, but in arthritis, too? Go here to learn more.

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