A new British study has found that women who increase their intake of vitamin D may help boost their bodies' ability to fight breast cancer.
The study, presented March 23 at the 23rd Joint Meeting of the British Endocrine Societies, was the first to show increased levels of the vitamin may prevent disease.
Tissue contains enzyme
Scientists believed that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D and a potent anti-cancer agent, was made only in the kidney. But the study found breast tissue also contains the enzyme that activates vitamin D and increased levels of the enzyme were found in breast tumors. The researchers think this ability to activate vitamin D is part of the breast's natural immune response to a tumor.
The study found that the breast has its own 'factory' for generating the anti-cancer form of vitamin D. Unfortunately women who live in colder climates may not have enough vitamin D to power the factory.
Improvements in dietary intake and fortification needed
While exposure to sunlight is the most efficient way of generating vitamin D in the body, the dangers of UV rays make prolonged exposure dangerous. The study’s authors suggest that perhaps now improvements in dietary intake and fortification of more foods with vitamin D can be made.
Vitamin D is found in dairy products, fish oils and breakfast cereals. However, too much vitamin D is thought to disrupt the body's phosphate and calcium levels. The UK Food Standards Agency recommends a daily allowance of 5 micrograms.