An article that appeared online this month in the journal Cancer Causes and Control reports an association between decreased serum levels of vitamin D and a greater risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women serving in the military.
The study included 600 women with breast cancer and 600 healthy, age-matched control subjects who were active-duty members of the U.S. military service. Prediagnostic serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of those with breast cancer were compared with serum vitamin D levels of the control subjects.
While no significant associations between vitamin D and breast cancer were observed, when the analysis was restricted to those whose vitamin D levels were measured no more than 90 days prior to diagnosis, a different picture emerged. For this group, having a serum vitamin D level that was among the lowest one-fifth of participants was associated with a more than three-times greater risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in comparison with the risk experienced by women whose levels were among the top fifth. Lead researcher Cedric Garland, DrPH, who is a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, believes that this time period may be important because it is likely to be the phase in which tumors most actively recruit blood vessels required for their growth.
"While the mechanisms by which vitamin D could prevent breast cancer are not fully understood, this study suggests that the association with low vitamin D in the blood is strongest late in the development of the cancer," Dr Garland stated. "Based on these data, further investigation of the role of vitamin D in reducing incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, particularly during the late phases of its development, is warranted."
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