Vitamin B might hold the key to breast cancer survival, as women with high levels of the vitamin are found to have a survival rate twice that of those with low levels.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego looked at the vitamin D levels of 4,443 breast cancer patients, first at the time of diagnosis and later followed up an average of nine years lately. 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a metabolite produced by the body after the absorption of vitamin D, was the key indicator in the findings.
"Vitamin D metabolites increased communication between cells by switching on a protein that blocks aggressive cell division," said Cedric F. Garland, the study's lead author and UCSD professor at the School of Medicine. "As long as vitamin D receptors were present tumor growth was prevented and kept from expanding its blood supply. Vitamin D receptors are not lost until a tumor is very advanced. This is the reason for better survival in patients whose vitamin D blood levels are high."
Published in medical journal Anticancer Research, the study found that the average level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in breast cancer sufferers was 17 nanograms per milliliter, while patients in the higher recovery group averaged 30 ng/ml. In the study, the sufferers were observed in five groups, based on their levels of the metabolite. Women in the higher groups were found to have a 44 percent higher chance of survival. A previous study, also conducted by Garland and his team, found that women with higher vitamin D levels were also 50 percent less likely to develop breast cancer in the first place. As a result, Garland has encouraged the rollout of randomized controlled clinical trials to lend further weight to the findings. Nevertheless, he believes that the incorporation of vitamin D into the traditional care and treatment methods can begin immediately.
"There is no compelling reason to wait for further studies to incorporate vitamin D supplements into standard care regimens since a safe dose of vitamin D needed to achieve high serum levels above 30 nanograms per milliliter has already been established," he said.
Study co-author, Dr. Heather Hofflich, agrees. "The study has implications for including vitamin D as an adjuvant to conventional breast cancer therapy," she said. Dr. Hofflich is an associate professor at the UCSD School of Medicine.