Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

By Charlyn Fargo

June 22, 2018 6 min read

Almost one-third of us don't get enough vitamin D, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And if you're over 50, you probably need to be taking a supplement. Not enough vitamin D can lead to brittle, soft bones, resulting in rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Now a new study, published in the journal, PLOS ONE, gives another reason to make sure you're getting enough of the sunshine vitamin. The study found that the more vitamin D you have in your system, the less likely you are to develop breast cancer. Previous research has also suggested a link between high vitamin D levels and better survival rates in people going through breast cancer treatment.

In the new study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine investigated whether and to what extent high levels of vitamin D in the blood were associated with a lower risk of developing breast cancer. Their analysis — which was conducted in collaboration with specialists from Creighton University in Omaha, NE, the Medical University of South Carolina in Columbia, and the nonprofit organization GrassrootsHealth in Encinitas, CA — found that certain levels of vitamin D correlate with a markedly lower risk of breast cancer.

The team, led by researcher Cedric Garland, analyzed data from two randomized clinical trials with a total of 3,125 participants between them as well as those in another study of 1,713 participants. All the participants were women with an average age of 63, who were cancer-free at baseline. Data was collected from 2002 to 2017 and the participants' health was followed over four years.

Researchers looked for associations between the risk of developing breast cancer in women and their serum concentration of a vitamin D biomarker, called 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

During the study timetable, a total of 77 new cases of breast cancer were found. The analysis showed that people with higher blood concentrations of the vitamin D biomarker had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer.

How much is enough? The team found that the minimum healthy level of 25-D should be about 60 nanograms per milliliter — higher than the current 20 nanograms per milliliter concentration recommended by the National Academy of Medicine.

Vitamin D is found naturally in fatty fish (salmon, tuna), cod liver oil, egg yolks, beef liver and some mushrooms exposed to light when grown. Dairy milk is fortified with vitamin D as well as some yogurts. Other fortified foods are some margarines, cereals and orange juice.

Q and A

Q: Does aluminum exposure in the diet lead to risks?

A: Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust, and it is widely distributed in soil, plants and water, though exposure is very small. It is rarely found in unprocessed foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, but aluminum may be added during the processing of certain ingredients, such as flour, baking soda, coloring and anticaking agents. The average U.S. adult gets 7-9 milligrams per day of aluminum in the diet. Aluminum exposure can also occur through cooking acidic foods in aluminum cookware, food and beverage packages, cosmetic, antiperspirants, astringents, vaccines and pharmaceuticals (such as antacids and buffered aspirin). High levels have been linked to respirator and neurological problems. Although more research is needed, studies suggest high levels may increase risks of Alzheimer's disease, certain cancers and infertility. The FDA reports current levels of aluminum in the food supply are generally safe, however, if you are concerned, consuming fewer processed and packaged foods and choosing alternative cookware and homecare products can reduce exposure. — Environmental Nutrition.


Looking for a snack to fuel your workout or hike? Eating Well magazine offers these Peanut Butter, Blueberry & Oat Energy Squares. They have carbs for energy and fat and protein for staying power.

Peanut Butter, Blueberry and Oat Energy Squares

1 cup creamy natural peanut butter

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

2 cups rolled oats, toasted

1/2 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

1/2 teaspoon salt

Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving extra hanging over two sides. Lightly coat the parchment with cooking spray. Mix peanut butter and maple syrup in a large bowl. Stir in oats, blueberries, pistachios and salt. Spread the mixture firmly and evenly in the prepared pan. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. Cut into 16 squares. Serves 16: 1 square each.

Per serving: 206 calories, 6 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 10 g sugars, 3 g fiber, 11 g fat, 127 mg sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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