Vitamin D might be the key for many women fighting breast cancer, according to a new study from JAMA Oncology.
Researchers found that women with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood were more likely to survive breast cancer than women with lower levels.
Regardless of race or ethnicity, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 220,000 women and roughly 2,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Out of those fighting breast cancer, about 40,000 women and 4,000 men die from it every year.
The study analyzed data from 1,666 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer. Specifically, researchers looked at levels of the vitamin D biomarker 25-hydroxyvitamin D (250HD) at the time of diagnosis, and then they studied breast cancer survival rate. They discovered the women with advanced tumors had lower levels of 250HD.
“Our findings provide compelling observational evidence for inverse associations between Vitamin D levels and risk of breast cancer progression and death,” the study’s authors said.
This is not the first time researchers have linked Vitamin D to treating cancer. Other studies have found that Vitamin D may be able to stop the growth of cancer cells, reduce tumor blood vessel formation, and stimulate cell death. However, more research needs to be done to conclusively link Vitamin D to fighting cancer.
Beyond fighting breast cancer, Vitamin D plays an essential role in bone health and helps the body absorb calcium. Other research has also shown that Vitamin D helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, and viral infections.
“Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins because it has an abundance of uses,” says in-house nutritionist for health and fitness app Lifesum, Lovisa Nilsson. “Particularly because it also enhances the body’s absorption of other vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate.”
To naturally boost Vitamin D levels, try adding more fortified breakfast cereals, oily fish like salmon or tuna, tofu, eggs, mushrooms, or milk into your daily diet.
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.