Almost All Women With Breast Cancer Are Also Vitamin D Deficient
We all know someone who’s been affected by breast cancer, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s the most common type of cancer worldwide. According to a 2022 review published in The Breast, breast cancer accounts for one in eight cancer diagnoses and resulted in a total of 2.3 million new cases in 2020.
As common as this devastating cancer is, I hear very little in the news about its link to vitamin D status. And yet, up to 96%1 of the breast cancer population is also deficient in vitamin D, per a 2017 review published in Breast Cancer.
While we aren’t shocked that vitamin D is profoundly helpful in promoting breast health given its vast and impactful health benefits, we found this statistic too compelling to not explore further—especially considering vitamin D deficiency affects 29% of U.S. adults2.
The connection between vitamin D & breast cancer.
In a 2017 Tumor Biology systematic review and meta-analysis, VDR gene polymorphisms were found to increase breast cancer risk3. Researchers believe the link between vitamin D and breast cancer risk has to do with vitamin D receptor (VDR) genes4 and their function in mammary glands—which include regulating calcium transportation during lactation and milk production.
How vitamin D sufficiency can help prevent breast cancer.
While research on the exact mechanisms and pathways of the sunshine vitamin’s effect on breast cancer are ongoing, evidence consistently shows a clear association between circulating vitamin D [i.e., 25(OH)D serum vitamin D levels] and breast cancer risk.
In a 2015 case-control study from Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, women deficient in vitamin D [i.e., with 25(OH)D levels below 20 ng/ml] had a 27% higher risk5 of breast cancer than women with sufficient vitamin D levels. But while clinical vitamin D sufficiency is defined as 25(OH)D levels above 30 ng/ml, other research indicates that higher levels provide greater protection against breast cancer risk.
Case in point: In one pooled analysis from Anticancer Research, a serum 25(OH)D level of 47 ng/ml was found to lower breast cancer risk by 50%6. This aligns with what mindbodygreen has found after speaking to leading endocrinologists, RDs, and longevity experts—a truly optimal vitamin D status of 50 ng/ml or higher is the goal for thriving health and well-being.
How to achieve & maintain truly optimal vitamin D levels.
Evidence suggests the average person needs to consume 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day to reach the goal serum level of 50 ng/ml. The problem? Food sources high in vitamin D don’t offer enough to help you achieve this goal (unless you’re drinking 50 glasses a milk a day, that is).
And though it’s nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin,” most people aren’t able to get sufficient safe sun exposure to achieve optimal vitamin D status due to myriad factors (e.g., age, latitude, season, climate, skin tone, biological sex, to name a few).
The most effective way to reach and sustain optimal serum vitamin D levels is by taking a high-quality supplement that delivers 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (bonus points if it features built-in healthy fats for enhanced bioavailability). Hint: You can find mindbodygreen’s all-time favorite vitamin D supplement selections here.
A whopping 96% of the breast cancer population is also deficient in vitamin D. Science shows that achieving vitamin D sufficiency (specifically, serum levels of 47 ng/ml or higher) can help cut your breast cancer risk in half.
To reach and sustain vitamin D sufficiency, experts suggest you increase your vitamin D3 intake to 5,000 IU per day. For a simple and effective way to get adequate vitamin D on a daily basis, consider a premium supplement.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.