The Missing Link in Cancer Prevention: Vitamin D
Recently there was a renewed interest in (and corresponding buzz around) breast and ovarian cancer; particularly due to celebrity Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy – despite the fact that she didn’t have cancer.  Jolie made this decision after learning that she carried the mutated BRCA-1 gene, and, according to reports, was at an 87 percent risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.
This, no doubt, brought controversy to the table.  Should she have had the surgery?  Does the indication of the BRCA-1 gene guarantee that she would eventually develop cancer?  Why would she do something so foolish?  Everyone has his or her own opinion… in fact we saw many different viewpoints right here on the Nutricell blog, with comments coming from every perspective.

Opinions are valuable.  But so is fact.  And the fact is that there are many tactics you can implement to reduce your risk of not only breast cancer, but all types of cancer… and those tactics do NOT include cutting off your breasts.

Preventing Cancer the Natural Way
There are the obvious methods of making sure your body is healthy enough to beat cancer cells before they ever morph into something dangerous; things like exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, getting adequate sleep, and eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.

That last one is especially important.  And one vitamin has been shown to be particularly effective in warding off cancer – up to 90 percent for breast cancer, and up to 77 percent for ALL cancers; including skin, lung, prostate, and even the highly deadly pancreatic cancer.  That essential vitamin is vitamin D.

One study, conducted by Joan Lappe and Robert P. Heaney back in 2007 was quite enlightening when it comes to the vitamin D-cancer connection.  The researchers gathered a group of menopausal women and introduced them to a regimen of vitamin D – enough to raise their blood serum levels to 40 ng/ml. The researchers discovered that over a period of four years, these women realized a reduction of all cancers by 77 percent.

The fascinating thing, however, is that 40 ng/ml is actually on the low side of optimal blood serum levels.  With levels of 50-70 ng/ml, which is ideal, just think what your body could do!

How it Works
Scientist and epidemiologist, Dr. Cedric F. Garland of the University of California’s San Diego Moores Cancer Center, believes that he has found why vitamin D plays such an essential role in cancer prevention; notably breast cancer.

Garland attests that the structure of your epithelial cells largely depends on a glue-like substance called E-cadherin.  This substance is made up mostly of vitamin D and calcium.  If you don’t get enough vitamin D on a regular basis, the structure of the cells can suffer – essentially “fall apart.”  When that happens, your cells do what your body has programmed them to do: multiply.  This cell proliferation can eventually lead to cancer.

And, Garland goes on to say, even if you already have cancer, you can help stop its growth by increasing your vitamin D levels. This, he purports, replenishes E-cadherin and can stop cancer cells in their tracks. This theory, or model, is called the DINOMIT model, and has been accepted by scientists worldwide.

How Can You Get Enough Vitamin D?
Remember, the optimal blood serum level of vitamin D is between 50 and 70 ng/ml.  So how can you know you’re getting enough?  What are some methods of making sure you’re not deficient?

The first question is answered quite easily – get tested!  The technology in blood testing has improved so much over the past few years that it is extremely simple to get your vitamin D levels tested; virtually any lab can do it.  And, because it’s becoming more commonplace, the cost of doing so has also diminished.  If you find you’re deficient, it’s recommended that you get check-ups every 3-6 months until your levels have stabilized, because your levels can change based on sun exposure and intensity of supplementation.

The second question – regarding methods to make sure you’re not deficient – is a tad bit trickier.  It’s unknown why, but each individual responds differently to vitamin D supplementation.  Even if you spend adequate time in the sun, or take a daily D supplement, you still might be deficient.  Recent research has suggested that adults may need to take at least 8,000 IUs of oral vitamin D3 per day in order to get serum levels above 40 ng/ml.  Some experts advise up to 10,000 IUs daily.  Toxicity is rare; but if you’re concerned, you should, as always, consult your physician.

The Bottom Line
“Conventional medicine” might argue with Garland’s theory and other research that points to the vitamin D-cancer connection.  But the increasing amount of research supporting this link cannot be denied.  Nor can the association between sufficient vitamin D and prevention of a whole host of other diseases, including diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and heart disease.

The bottom line is this: if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, you’re putting your health at severe risk.