Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sunshine Vitamin

In Washington state, we have one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the country. We also happen to have one of the highest incidence of Multiple Sclerosis in the country. Some studies speculate that both of these could be attributed to a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is of course the Sunshine Vitamin. It is something that our bodies manufacture from exposure to sunlight.

According to one Canadian study, "Women who have a vitamin D deficiency when they are diagnosed with breast cancer were 94% more likely to have their cancer metastasize and 73% more likely to die within 10 years". "Ten years after their diagnosis, 83% of those who had adequate vitamin D levels were still alive, compared to 79% of those with insufficient levels and 69% of those classified as deficient. None of the patients were given vitamin D supplements."

I recently met with a naturopath at Swedish Medical Center to find out what I should be eating and doing to help decrease my chances of a recurrence of breast cancer. One of the things she told me is that I should have my Vitamin D levels checked to see if I am deficient in Vitamin D.

Yesterday I talked to the nurse at my oncologist's office to ask her to request this test for me for the next time I came in. To my surprise, she told me that I was tested for this on the day of my first chemo (July 9). She looked up my results and found that my Vitamin D levels are well within normal range. Even bordering on optimal! She asked me how much Vitamin D I had been taking and I was happy to tell her that though I take a multi-vitamin and a calcium supplement, I do not take a separate Vitamin D supplement. She told me I was only the second person that she could remember who had normal ranges of Vitamin D without taking it as a supplement.

I am thrilled to hear this as having normal levels at diagnosis seems to have a positive impact on avoiding recurrences in the future. Since I have lived in gray Seattle all my life, I checked to see how much sunshine is needed to manufacture enough Vitamin D and it is pretty minimal; about 15 minutes a day a couple of times per week. I know what you are going to say-what about skin cancer? I'm not minimizing the risk of skin cancer, but I think 15 minutes a couple of times a week is worth the risk if it can help prevent other types of cancer. At least for me it is so I will be making sure I get my sunshine a couple of times a week. For all of the things you can do to help prevent breast cancer, this one is pretty darn easy. Besides, when it is sunny in Seattle-it is glorious!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tracy for this reminder for a need for Vitamin D. I am going to go and soak up the sun for 15 minutes and then pick up some vitamin D at Costco tomorrow. Being advocates for our own heath gives us power right?