~ Vitamin D Is Known Cancer Fighter; Precise Dose Varies - ASK DR. H Mitchell Hecht

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 01-10-06

Q: I know that vitamin D is necessary for strong bones, but have you ever heard of it helping to prevent breast cancer? My friend takes 800 units every day.

A: Actually, extra vitamin D may not only help reduce the risk of breast cancer, but colon and ovarian cancers too. We've known about an association between sunlight and cancer risk since the 1940s. Vitamin D, a vitamin synthesized in our bodies via sunlight on our skin, is naturally present in greater amounts in folks exposed to more sunlight. In observational studies, folks with higher vitamin D levels do seem to have a lower incidence of certain forms of cancer. Why that is so isn't clear.

A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health concluded from a review of 63 studies that several thousand lives may be saved each year from colon, breast, ovarian and other cancers simply by taking supplemental vitamin D. Folks at risk for vitamin D deficiency are associated with a higher incidence of certain cancers.

How much supplemental vitamin D is advisable? No one knows for certain. It depends upon where you live (northern or southern latitude), how much sun exposure you receive, whether you're fair-skinned or dark skinned (e.g., dark-skinned folks do not produce as much vitamin D due to their skin pigment) and how much vitamin D you already consume in foods. The authors of the recent review suggest 1,000 units of vitamin D daily. The upper limit of safety for vitamin D intake is 2,000 units/day, so 800-1,000 units is perfectly safe.

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