There are a number of lifestyle factors accountable for the development of cancer. While bad diet is one of the main culprits, evidence indicates that deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals can also cause DNA damage. Although the majority of vitamins are absorbed through diet, some – notably vitamin D – can be acquired through sun exposure. Studies have shown that vitamin D could also protect against cancer due to the effect it has on the life cycle of cells.
Researchers observed higher rates of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency among women with breast cancer.
Findings revealed 55.6 percent of breast cancer patients had a vitamin D insufficiency compared to 49.3 percent of controls, and 26.2 percent of cancer patients had a vitamin D deficiency, compared to healthy controls.
The researchers noted: “Insufficient or deficient [vitamin D] concentrations were detected in 81.8 percent of women with cancer cancer and in 69.6 percent of women without cancer.
“These results are in agreement with previous studies that demonstrated a high rate of [vitamin D deficiency] among women with breast cancer.
“The active form of [vitamin D] and its derivatives may exert anti-tumour effects through negative regulation of growth factor signalling, in addition to its effects on proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and angiogenesis.”
Machado added: “The effects of the active vitamin D metabolite on the breast are mediated by vitamin D receptors, which controls the expression of genes that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis.
“[Vitamin D] may reduce cancer risk by inhibiting cell proliferation, inducing differentiation and apoptosis, and inhibiting angiogenesis both in the normal and malignant breast.
“Several uncontrolled studies have reported a high rate of [vitamin D] deficiency in women with breast cancer.”
The study adds to a growing body of research showing an inverse association between vitamin D deficiency and incidence of several cancers, including breast colorectal, kidney, lung and pancreatic.
Previous studies have found that vitamin D supplements could reduce the risk of cancer by up to 38 percent.
It had previously been thought that the vitamin could reduce only the risk of death from cancer, as opposed to the overall incidence of the disease.
Vitamin D deficiencies affect one billion people worldwide, with symptoms including depression, bone and back pain, and fatigue.
Britain has one of the highest levels of vitamin D deficiency in Europe, with one in four Britons lacking the vitamin.
In 2016 Public Health England recommended everyone in the UK consider taking daily vitamin D supplements.
Last year, new advice was issued suggesting that people take the supplements due to outdoor coronavirus restrictions.
The deficiency can have serious health consequences, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. Foods that naturally contain vitamin D include fatty fish, fish liver oil and eggs.