In honor of breast cancer awareness month, I would like to dedicate this piece to those who have lost their battle to, or are currently fighting, breast cancer. As new research surfaces, there is hope for those at risk, current sufferers, and survivors alike.
Vitamin D, we meet again. Aside from helping the body absorb calcium and aiding the muscle, nervous, and immune systems, research is suggesting that women with low levels of Vitamin D may have a higher risk of breast cancer. This nutrient could play into regulating normal growth of breast cells, and potentially stopping the growth of breast cancer cells (breastcancer). In addition to getting your 15-20 minutes of daily sun exposure, Vitamin D supplements can help boost your prevention. According to the well-known New York-Presbyterian Hospital cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University professor, Dr. Mehmet Oz, “a daily supplement of Vitamin D (1200 IUs) can prevent tumor metastasis, reduce cancer cells, and help with estrogen inhibitors” (doctoroz).
Dr. Oz’s Tips
“Be sure to get dietary sources of calcium, too, such as sardines, salmon and some dairy like milk and cheese. And don’t forget to soak up 15-20 minutes of sunshine every day,” as we have established is of utmost importance (doctoroz). “All of these combined can decrease your breast cancer risk by 50%” (doctoroz). Known for their heart healthy attributes, aspirin and ibuprofen also have reason to be noticed under the subject of breast cancer. Taking two of either a week has the ability to reduce the chance of breast cancer between 21% and 28% (doctoroz).
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) recently examined obesity’s role in breast cancer. What separates this study from those previously looking at weight in affiliation with this disease is that it is the first “to provide evidence that obesity can alter the genes involved in our body’s inflammatory response, hereditary disorders, and other immunological diseases” (rd).
The Ohio State team of cell biologists, medical oncologists, epidemiologists, and geneticists observed “gene expression analysis of tissue samples collected from 121 women” who had no history of breast cancer. All subjects were undergoing breast reduction and 51 women were clinically obese.
240 of the 308 genes looked at were more likely to have random mutations and low gene expression in the women, while 68 genes had less of a risk for gene mutations and high gene expression. “Different types of breast cancer can be affected differently by obesity, a more robust understanding of how obesity triggers inflammatory cancer pathways and increases breast cancer risk could help us develop better chemoprevention strategies or early prevention strategies in women at increased risk based on their weight,” Peter Shields, MD, senior author of the AACR abstract and deputy director of the OSUCCC—James told Lauren Rearick of Reader’s Digest (rd).
Dr. Weil’s Tips
Our friend Dr. Weil concurs with Dr. Oz that staying keen to our Vitamin D intake should be of our utmost interest. Supporting Dr. Weil’s strong faith in supplements over drugs, studies have shown that women’s increased consumption of olive oil results in less breast cancer. Let’s be clear: The Ohio State study does not necessarily mean we should resist all fats. It just means that we should be conscious of the kinds of fats we ingest. Omega-3 fats, which we know the benefits of (http://makersnutrition.com/news/2017-09-14-the-way-to-be-with-omega-3/), have been linked to hindering the growth of breast tumors. Highly fibrous diets, which may ring a bell (http://www.makersnutrition.com/news/2017-10-25-how-do-you-like-them-tomatoes/), may also diminish “estrogen levels and promote appropriate weight loss, thereby reducing the risk of breast cancer” (drweil). Lastly, Dr. Weil proposes taking a multivitamin—one that contains Vitamin D and antioxidants, that is, since both groups have been connected to a reduced risk of breast cancer. We know that healthy eating includes getting our daily nutrients, but a daily multivitamin may be the boost we want—not merely for everyday nutrition, but also for preventive purposes.
The Mighty Multi
While on the topic of multivitamins, Oncology Times released an article revealing evidence that multivitamins can actually lessen or even completely circumvent chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), which causes shooting/burning pain, tingling, numbness, and sensitivity of the hands and/or feet for many people affected by cancer. This was discovered by the Roswell Park Center Institute of Buffalo, New York (journals.lww).
The Roswell Park study consisted of more than 1,000 patients in a clinical trial of women with breast cancer who were taking the taxane drug paclitaxel, a drug that usually results in neuropathy. These patients were asked at registration of the trial for their previous supplement use, while use during chemo was recorded when they had completed treatment (journals.lww).
Patients who used multivitamins before diagnosis were approximately 40% less likely to experience grades 3 or 4 neuropathy than non-users of a multivitamin. “Similar, but somewhat weaker associations were observed for use during chemotherapy. [Meanwhile], individual supplements such as Vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, iron, and fish oil did not appear to have an association with risk for CIPN” (journals.lww). Researcher Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Senior Vice President for Population Sciences and Roswell Alliance Foundation Endowed Chair in Cancer Prevention, reported “Our study showed that use of multivitamin supplements, but not specific vitamins was associated with less neurotoxicity. This was true for use before diagnosis and, to a lesser extent, during chemotherapy” (journals.lww). Though this study represents how multivitamins in general can help those who have completed treatment, this does not disqualify Vitamin D as a helping factor in preventing breast cancer. In addition to other doctors’ credible recommendations, the Roswell Park Center Institute did not specify that Vitamin D was one of the individual supplements that did not show a connection to CIPN risk.
Men, don’t go thinking that you are in the clear of breast cancer just because you are not a female. Though less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men, about 2,470 men are expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year alone (breastcancer). Men, you have breasts too. Stay attuned to your risk factors and what you can do to avoid developing breast cancer.
Lastly, know your levels! A simple blood test administered by your doctor during a routine physical can tell where you are with Vitamin D and how much you should be taking daily. It is indeed possible to take too much Vitamin D, and that can lead to an excess amount of calcium in the blood (breastcancer). Please contact a licensed physician before taking any supplement steps.
So wear that pink ribbon proudly. With progress, we march on!