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D.iet & H.ealth : C.ancer Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Low vitamin D found in women with late-stage breast cancer
By Kathy Jones
Oct 18, 2006, 20:43

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Women with advanced-stage breast cancer appear to have significantly lower levels of vitamin D, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Imperial College London. However, researchers were not sure whether lower levels of vitamin D cause the cancer or vice versus.

In a study of 279 women with breast cancer, the researchers compared the circulating vitamin D level in women in advanced stage of the disease with women in early stages of the cancer. 75 women had advanced stage breast cancer while the remaining 204 had early stage cancer.

Vitamin D levels were very low in women in the late-stage breast cancer compared to those having early stage breast cancer, the researchers report in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

"This report, while being an observational study, clearly shows that circulating vitamin D levels are lower in advanced breast cancer as compared to early breast cancer," said lead author Dr. Carlo Palmieri of Imperial College London. "It lends support to the idea that vitamin D has a role in the progression of breast cancer."

Earlier studies have documented findings that low levels of vitamin D may cause early stage breast cancer to progress rapidly. Additionally some studies have highlighted that having adequate circulating vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing the cancer.

Vitamin D has the ability to hasten cancer cell death and prevent cancer cells from dividing. The vitamin that can be obtained through exposure to sunlight is also present in adequate amounts in oily fish and eggs.

But the underlying mechanisms through which it influences early- and late-stage breast cancer is not very clear. Although the present study shows that vitamin D levels are low in late-stage breast cancer patients, the significance of the finding is not properly addressed.

"We also need to look at the potential clinical implications of monitoring and maintaining high circulating vitamin D levels in breast cancer patients," Palmieri said. "By answering these questions, we may be able to improve the treatment of women with breast cancer."

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