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Vitamin D May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

According to a new Canadian study, increasing your intake of vitamin D may reduce the risk of breast cancer by 24 percent.

The connection between vitamin D and cancer risk dates all the way back to the 1940s when Dr. Frank Apperly found an association between latitude and cancer death. His analysis, published in the journal Cancer Research, showed that cancer rates were lower in areas that received more sunlight throughout the year.

This recent study analyzed the vitamin D intakes of 759 women with breast cancer and compared them to 1,135 healthy controls. The results are published in the August 2008 edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology and found that higher intakes of vitamin D were associated with a 24 percent decreased risk of developing cancerous tumors.

In addition to cancer benefits, vitamin D has also been shown to aid immune system function, regulate cell growth and promote bone health. Deficiencies have been linked to bone loss, increased risk of heart disease, arthritis, chronic pain and muscle weakness.

The elderly are at a particular risk of vitamin D deficiency because as you age your skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin. That's important because the vitamin is produced naturally as sunlight is absorbed through your skin. Given that 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, increasing sun exposure may not be the best route to increase vitamin D levels.

A high quality supplement or maintaining a diet rich in foods that contain (or add) vitamin D may be an alternative to getting more sun. Fish, milk products and many cereals either contain vitamin D naturally or are fortified with the vitamin.
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