The scientific and nutrition communities are beginning to realize the significant, unparalleled health benefits of Vitamin D. It has long been known that Vitamin D works with calcium to support bone health, but its benefits are much more far-reaching than that. Every single cell in the human body requires Vitamin D to function properly. To get an idea of how significant Vitamin D is to human health, consider that most people get sick, especially with the flu, during the winter months, when their exposure to the sun, the body’s primary source of Vitamin D, tends to become severely limited. Vitamin D supports healthy immune function, helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm (your sleeping and waking pattern), supports cell reproduction and growth, and fights breast cancer in some very important, fundamental ways.
Vitamin D can be taken in the form of supplements, but by far the most effective forms of Vitamin D are synthesized by the body when it is exposed to direct sunlight (UVB rays). While this thought raises concerns to those who feel that exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is dangerous, consider that it is the UVA rays, not UVB rays, that are harmful. UVB rays are received by the body through direct sunlight, while UVA rays are received from indirect sunlight. It is not necessary to sunbathe for hours every day, risking severe sunburns, to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight each day is sufficient for the body to synthesize enough Vitamin D for optimal health.
Studies show a link between breast cancer and Vitamin D levels. Women who develop breast cancer tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, and women who already have breast cancer but have increased levels of Vitamin D tend to have smaller tumors and higher survival rates. Preliminary research shows that those living in southern latitudes, where increased sunlight exposure and therefore higher Vitamin D levels are the norm, have lower cancer rates. Some research shows that proper Vitamin D levels can reduce cancer rates by up to 77%! Studies have shown with such consistency the benefits of Vitamin D in the fight against cancer, that the mainstream media, including major news stations, is reporting it. The Canadian Cancer Society now endorses the use of Vitamin D as a cancer drug.
Apoptosis occurs when the body naturally kills cells that can become harmful or even cancerous. It is one of the body’s ways of preventing cancer. Cells in breast tissue have receptors that respond to Vitamin D when it binds to them. The Vitamin D that binds to cancerous breast tissue actually programs the cancerous cells to either die or stop growing, thus inhibiting metastasis, or the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body. Vitamin D also activates the genes that cause apoptosis, which helps prevent potential cancer from developing.
Angiogenesis is a process by which malignant tumors generate new blood vessels, thereby feeding the tumors from the body’s own food supply. Angiogenesis is necessary for tumors to grow beyond a microscopic size, and essentially develop a life of their own. This phenomenon appears to be especially prevalent in breast cancer (as well as lung cancer), possibly because of the close proximity to the heart. Vitamin D has been shown to help activate genes that prevent or inhibit angiogenesis.
Estrogen hormones are responsible for female sexual development, including breast growth and development in pubescent girls and menstrual cycles. In moderate amounts, it is good and beneficial, but excess estrogen causes the mood swings and other symptoms associated with PMS. In Estrogen Receptive Positive (ER+) breast cancer, estrogen actually fuels the cancerous cells and tumors. Aromatase is an enzyme that fuels biosynthesis of estrogen, and it is expressed by the ER+ cancer cells. In this way, the cancerous cells cause the body to create fuel, in the form of estrogen, for them, causing the cancer to grow. When Vitamin D binds to the cancerous breast tissue cells, it inhibits the secretion of aromatase, thereby preventing the synthesis of the estrogen that feeds the tumor. Vitamin D also increases the production of 15-PGDH, which is known to suppress and inhibit the growth of tumors.
More research has yet to be done about the cancer-fighting powers of Vitamin D, and under which conditions it is most active and beneficial. Some research groups, especially pharmaceutical companies and to an extent the American Cancer Society, still find current research to be preliminary and inconclusive. However, as research into this super-vitamin and its ability to fight breast cancer increases, it may be found that a day at the beach is just what the doctor ordered.