Does vitamin D lower my breast cancer risk?

November 28, 2018 | by Christine Gresik, MD

Vitamin D is a lot like drinking a glass of milk — it does the body good in more ways than one. Not only can it help keep your spirits up and ward off depression, but it helps keep your bones strong, increase circulation, and strengthen your immune system.

A new study suggests that having a higher concentration of vitamin D in your blood may also help lower your risk for breast cancer.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego pooled data from two randomized clinical trials. All women studied were age 55 or older and data was collected over 15 years. At the time the study began, participants were free of cancer and were followed for an average of four years.

Over the course of the research, 77 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed, and researchers determined that increasing vitamin D in blood levels appeared to be important for preventing breast cancer.

However, while vitamin D may play a role in stopping breast cancer cells from growing, more research needs to be done since the study was limited to post-menopausal breast cancer.

Regardless, vitamin D is essential for overall health. Here are some steps you can take to improve your vitamin D intake:

  • Spend more time outside. The most natural way to get vitamin D is through the sun. You don’t need to (and you shouldn’t) tan or burn to get vitamin D — you should get enough vitamin D in half the amount of time it takes your skin to burn. If you enjoy being in the sun, here are some ways to get plenty of vitamin D and keep your skin healthy at the same time.
  • Eat foods that are high in vitamin D. These include: salmon, sardines, canned tuna oil, shrimp, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods like orange juice, cereal and oatmeal.
  • Consider taking a vitamin D supplement, which may be beneficial for older adults and people with limited sun exposure or darker skin.

You can also live healthier to reduce your risk of cancer, which includes:

  • Not smoking and keeping your home smoke-free
  • Limiting alcohol intake and eating healthy
  • Exercising and keeping your weight in check
  • Protecting your skin from the sun
  • Getting vaccinated

If you think you need more vitamin D in your diet or if you think you have a vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you determine how much vitamin D your body really needs.

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