Breast Cancer

Here’s a staggering statistic: Women who are deficient in vitamin D at the time they are diagnosed with breast cancer are nearly 75 percent more likely to die from the disease than women with sufficient vitamin D levels. What’s more, their cancer is twice as likely to metastasize to other parts of the body.

In the United States, more than forty thousand women die from breast cancer every year – making it the deadliest killer of women after heart disease. One woman in eight either has or will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. To the more than two hundred thousand women who are diagnosed with this disease each year, there are not only physical consequences but emotional ones too. Self-esteem issues associated with breast cancer can be profound.

There are 214,000 new cases and 41,000 deaths from breast cancer each year in the United States. A 2008 study found that women who had a vitamin D deficiency at the time they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 94 percent more likely to have their cancer spread than women with adequate vitamin D levels in their bodies.

In May 1999, a study results provide extraordinary insight into the relationship between sun exposure and breast cancer. The authors conclude definitely that sun exposure and a vitamin D-rich diet significantly lower the risk of breast cancer.

The study demonstrates that increased sun exposure alone could potentially reduce the incidence and death rate of breast cancer in the United States by 35 percent to 75 percent. This would mean that the incidence of new cases might be reduced by 70,000 to 150,000 each year and that 17,500 to 37,500 deaths could be prevented. A conservative estimate is that increased sun exposure could prevent 100,000 new cases of breast cancer and 27, 500 deaths from this disease. Combining increased sun exposure with a vitamin D-rich diet or supplements could make the disease prevention and death rate figures 150,000 and 38,000, respectively.

In 2007, researchers pooled the results from two studies – the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study and the St. George’s Hospital Study in London – and published a report that said patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D had the lowest risk of breast cancer. Raising 25-vitamin D levels may prevent up to half of breast and two thirds of colorectal cancer cases in the United States alone. In 2008, Dr. Garland and his colleagues again documented an association among a lack of sunlight exposure, low 25-vitamin D, and breast cancer. These statistics likely replicate in other countries at similar latitudes. Based on his studies, Dr. William Grant estimates that lack of sun exposure is responsible for approximately 25 percent of the deaths from breast cancer in Europe. Recently, Dr. Julia Knight of the University of Toronto reported that women who had the most sun exposure as teenagers and young adults had a more than 60 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who had the least sun exposure. One can only imagine the excitement that would result if a drug were invented that yielded such preventive results!

Again, you might ask about skin cancer rates. Wouldn’t they rise in response to increased sun exposure? Approximately 500 women a year die from nonmelanoma skin cancer. Given that the above statistics show that 27,500 women die prematurely because of underexposure to sunlight, it becomes evident that 55 women die prematurely because of underexposure to sunlight for every 1 who dies prematurely from over-exposure to sunlight.

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