Vitamin D and breast cancer risk

Apr 18, 2008

A connection between vitamin D level and the risk of developing breast cancer has been implicated for a long time, but its clinical relevance had not yet been proven. Sascha Abbas and colleagues from the working group headed by Dr. Jenny Chang-Claude at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ), collaborating with researchers of the University Hospitals in Hamburg-Eppendorf, have now obtained clear results: While previous studies had concentrated chiefly on nutritional vitamin D, the researchers have now investigated the complete vitamin D status.

To this end, they studied 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) as a marker for both endogenous vitamin D and vitamin D from food intake.

The result of the study involving 1,394 breast cancer patients and an equal number of healthy women after menopause was surprisingly clear: Women with a very low blood level of 25(OH)D have a considerably increased breast cancer risk. The effect was found to be strongest in women who were not taking hormones for relief of menopausal symptoms. However, the authors note that, in this retrospective study, diagnosis-related factors such as chemotherapy or lack of sunlight after prolonged hospital stays might have contributed to low vitamin levels of breast cancer patients.

In addition, the investigators focused on the vitamin D receptor. The gene of this receptor is found in several variants known as polymorphisms. The research team of the DKFZ and Eppendorf Hospitals investigated the effect of four of these polymorphisms on the risk of developing breast cancer. They found out that carriers of the Taql polymorphism have a slightly increased risk of breast tumors that carry receptors for the female sex hormone estrogen on their surface. No effects on the overall breast cancer risk were found. A possible explanation offered by the authors is that vitamin D can exert its cancer-preventing effect by counteracting the growth-promoting effect of estrogens.

Besides its cancer-preventing influence with effects on cell growth, cell differentiation and programmed cell death (apoptosis), vitamin D regulates, above all, the calcium metabolism in our body. Foods that are particularly rich in vitamin D include seafish (cod liver oil), eggs and dairy products. However, the largest portion of vitamin D is produced by our own body with the aid of sunlight.

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

Explore further: AstraZeneca cancer drug, companion test approved

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vitamin A derivative can inhibit early forms of breast cancer

Apr 05, 2011

A nutrient found in carrots and sweet potatoes may prove key to fighting breast cancer at early stages, according to a new study by researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Sandra Fernandez, PhD, an assistant research professor ...

Women with breast cancer have low vitamin D levels

Oct 09, 2009

Women with breast cancer should be given high doses of vitamin D because a majority of them are likely to have low levels of vitamin D, which could contribute to decreased bone mass and greater risk of fractures, according ...

Recommended for you

Putting the brakes on cancer

Dec 19, 2014

A study led by the University of Dundee, in collaboration with researchers at our University, has uncovered an important role played by a tumour suppressor gene, helping scientists to better understand how ...

Peanut component linked to cancer spread

Dec 19, 2014

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that a component of peanuts could encourage the spread and survival of cancer cells in the body.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.