Vitamin D May Improve Breast Cancer Survival
December 30, 2012 by Robert Wascher
Filed under A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Treatment, Cancer, Cancer Death, Cancer Prevention, Risk of Death, Robert Wascher, Vitamin D, Vitamins, Weekly Health Update, breast cancer prevention, breast cancer risk, cancer risk, health
A new study links higher Vitamin D levels with improved survival in patients with breast cancer.
VITAMIN D MAY IMPROVE BREAST CANCER SURVIVAL
As I extensively discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, Vitamin D is the last vitamin left standing tall based upon the findings of recent high quality cancer prevention research studies. Other than Vitamin D, virtually every other vitamin has been shown, by solid clinical research data, to have little or no favorable impact on cancer risk. Based upon extensive research, Vitamin D appears to be particularly effective in reducing the risk of cancers of the GI tract, including, especially, colorectal cancer. When it comes to breast cancer, the clinical research findings for Vitamin D tend to be mixed, with some studies showing a decreased risk of developing breast cancer (and improved survival in patients already diagnosed with breast cancer) associated with higher blood levels of this hormone-like vitamin, while others studies have failed to show that these beneficial effects are associated with increased Vitamin D levels. Now, a new update from the December 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (the largest annual meeting dedicated exclusively to breast cancer research in the world) strongly suggests that higher Vitamin D levels, when combined with chemotherapy and the bone-strengthening drug zoledronic acid (ZOMETA®), are associated with improved survival in patients with breast cancer.
The ongoing prospective AZURE breast cancer study was not directly designed to evaluate the role of Vitamin D in the treatment of breast cancer, but among the more than 3,000 women who were enrolled in this British study, some received Vitamin D supplements and some did not. Therefore, a secondary aim of this study was to assess the impact of Vitamin D levels on clinical outcomes in this large group of women with breast cancer.
Out of the 3,360 women who volunteered to participate in the AZURE trial, blood samples of 872 of these women were available; and these blood samples were, therefore, evaluated by measuring Vitamin D levels. As this study was conducted in the United Kingdom, where sunlight is notoriously scarce, it was not surprising to learn that only 10 percent of the women in this AZURE trial subgroup had blood levels of Vitamin D at or above the “sufficient” level of 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
The primary aim of the AZURE study was to assess the impact of the bone-strengthening drug zoledronic acid on clinical outcomes in patients previously diagnosed with breast cancer. As published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, there appeared to be no significant differences in outcomes between women randomized to receive zoledronic acid and women who received placebo (sugar) pills while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. However, in this new update from the AZURE trial, postmenopausal breast cancer patients who were randomized to receive zoledronic acid and who had blood levels of Vitamin D above 30 ng/mL were 11 percent less likely to develop spread (metastasis) of their breast cancer to their bones when compared to the postmenopausal women who also took zoledronic acid but who also had low Vitamin D levels. (As breast cancer metastasizes to the bones more commonly than any other site in the body, this apparent Vitamin D-associated 11 percent reduction in bone metastases in postmenopausal patients being treated with chemotherapy and zoledronic acid would be expected to improve survival as well.)
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, where I work as a Surgical Oncologist, and as the director of our breast cancer program, we routinely measure Vitamin D levels on all patients, and those who are found to be deficient in this important vitamin are routinely placed on Vitamin D supplements. The updated findings of the AZURE breast cancer trial, as well as similarly positive research findings for other types of cancer, suggest that this approach to monitoring and, when necessary, supplementing Vitamin D levels may be an important adjunct to standard cancer therapies.
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Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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