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Low Levels of Vitamin D Spell Trouble for Breast Cancer Patients
Date:5/16/2008

Study found women with deficiency were more likely to suffer recurrence, die from disease

FRIDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- Women with breast cancer who have a vitamin D deficiency at the time of diagnosis are more likely to have a recurrence or to die from their disease, a new study shows.

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that only 24 percent of the patients had adequate levels of vitamin D when they were diagnosed.

"This study found that vitamin D deficiency is very common among women with breast cancer, and it suggests that vitamin D deficiency is linked to poorer outcomes in these women," Dr. Nancy Davidson, director of the breast cancer program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, said during a May 6 press conference. Davidson is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Nevertheless, the evidence isn't strong enough to suggest women with breast cancer take more of the vitamin.

"It's premature to tell all women diagnosed with breast cancer that they should take vitamin D supplements over and above what's recommended for bone health," said study author Dr. Pamela Goodwin, a medical oncologist with Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. "If you're a woman with breast cancer, it's probably worthwhile having vitamin D levels checked. If they're deficient, they should take more to get it in the range that we think is beneficial."

The optimal levels of vitamin D associated with breast cancer risk in this study do overlap with optimal levels for bone health, Goodwin added.

Prior research has suggested that vitamin D levels may be associated with breast cancer risk, an idea that is biologically plausible.

"We know from basic science studies that breast cancer cells have vitamin D receptors and can interact with vitamin D," explained Goodwin, who plans to present her findings at the ASCO annual meeting,
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