Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that have widespread actions throughout the body.
This vitamin is responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and phosphate
It boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, regulates numerous cellular pathways, promotes cell growth, supports neuromuscular functions and more.
Several recent studies show that vitamin D plays a crucial role in preventing and treating various cancers.
In a 2016 study published in PLOS ONE, researchers reported that higher levels of vitamin D – specifically serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D – are associated with a correspondingly reduced risk of cancer.
Maintaining the right level of vitamin D can help prevent at least 16 different types of cancer, including breast, colon, lung, pancreatic, ovarian, prostate and bladder cancers.
Here’s a look at the role of vitamin D and its impact on different types of cancer.
- Vitamin D and Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in women worldwide. A 2006 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention reports the positive connection between breast cancer and Vitamin D.
The study highlighted the anticarcinogenic effect of vitamin D due to its participation in regulating cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis in normal and malignant breast cells.
Plus, a prospective study published in Cancer Causes and Control in 2013 notes that low serum vitamin D levels in the months preceding diagnosis may predict a high risk of premenopausal breast cancer. In fact, the risk is three times higher in women who have extremely low serum vitamin D levels.
Another study published in Anticancer Research in 2014 suggests that patients suffering from breast cancer with high levels of the vitamin in their blood are more likely to survive the disease than patients with low levels.
This study included more than 4,000 patients with breast cancer and was conducted between 1966 and 2010. All patients were followed for an average of nine years.
This study says that 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a metabolite produced by the body from the ingestion of vitamin D, increases communication between cells by switching on a protein that blocks aggressive cell division.
This prevents tumor growth and keeps it from expanding its blood supply. This is the reason for better survival in patients whose vitamin D blood levels are high.
- It is important to have your vitamin D serum level tested every six months. The serum level should be between 50 and 70 ng/ml for optimal health.
- The body’s main source of the vitamin is the sun. So, expose your body to early morning sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes daily without sunscreen.
- Some excellent dietary sources of this vitamin are fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks and fortified dairy and grain products.
- You can also take a vitamin D supplement, after consulting your doctor.