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Let the Sun Shine: Preventing Breast Cancer with Vitamin D

Posted 07/17/2006

The next time you send your daughter outside to play on a sunny day, go along with her and you’ll both be protecting yourselves from breast cancer.

That’s the key finding from two papers, recently presented at the American Institute of Cancer Research, that analyzed the lifestyles of almost 1000 women with breast cancer and 1000 women without it. Here are some of the provocative conclusions.

  • Women with increased levels of vitamin D develop less breast cancer than women whose levels are low. Conversely, women with especially low levels are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than those with normal levels.
  • Since vitamin D is manufactured by the body when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it follows that women who spent a lot of time outdoors enjoyed a 40% reduction in their odds of developing breast cancer. Participating in an outdoor activity (as opposed to just being outside) conferred added benefit. Researchers surmised that with prolonged activity women wore short sleeves or shorts, further increasing sun exposure.
  • Women who live in the sunny Southwest US have one third the breast cancer rates of women from the overcast Northeast.
  • Drinking at least nine glasses of fortified milk a week, especially before age 30, gave vitamin D protection as well.
  • The effect of sunblock on all this was unknown simply because it’s only been around for twenty years. Doctors do continue to recommend sunblock, to protect against skin cancer.
  • The effect of taking vitamin D supplements was also unknown, mainly because women who take any vitamin supplements (including vitamin D) generally have an overall healthier lifestyle.

To help sort this out, here’s what I recommend:

  • In The Triple Whammy Cure I exhort you to get into the sunlight to boost your feel-good serotonin. Now you’ve got another good reason to be outside for at least 20 minutes every day. If you live in an extremely sunny country or area of the US (such as Florida, the Southwest, or Southern California), you may be getting enough sun during daily activities to get most of your vitamin D. Unless you spend much of your day indoors, you don’t have to be too concerned.
  • Anywhere else, my suggestions are:

(a) spend time outside every day with your skin exposed to the sun and

(b) get 1000 IU (international units) of vitamin D daily. Your calcium supplement should contain some vitamin D. Dr. Alan Gaby’s excellent formulation, OsteoPrime Forte, has 300 IU of D on board, a good start if you also drink fortified milk and eat egg yolks, chinook salmon, and shrimp, all good sources of D. The vitamin D product we recommend is Iso D3. This tablet contains 2000 IU and needs to be taken only every other day.

  • If you’ve got a worrisome family history of breast cancer, consider regular use of the Breast Defense Formula.
  • Ask your doctor to measure your Vitamin D level. Levels closest to 50 ng/ml (that’s nanograms per milliliter–a level common among women in SoCal) are ideal. If you’re on the low side, get to work on the tips above.

It’s worth noting that some women in the Northeast US have virtually undetectable levels of vitamin D.


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