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Can this nutrient deficiency determine if you will survive breast cancer or not?

Ten years ago, we learned that women with low levels of vitamin D and calcium in their blood were at an extremely high risk for developing breast cancer. In fact, 90% of the breast-cancer patients in the study had low vitamin D and calcium levels. But newer studies are taking this association one step further.

Six years ago, Canadian researchers looked at women with early stage breast cancer. They followed them for 12 years. Their conclusion was that the women with the lowest vitamin D levels had almost double the risk of cancer spread, the worst tumors (size), and the highest risk of death.

Then a few years later, two studies made even more news. In 2012, researchers in Belgium followed women with early breast cancer. They measured their vitamin D levels for five years. They found that the women with the lowest vitamin D levels had bigger tumors than those with high vitamin D levels. What's more, women with low levels of vitamin D also had a much greater risk of death during the study.

In this study, which came out in 2013, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of eight different studies. They wanted to find out how vitamin D blood levels impacted breast-cancer recurrence and death. The studies included 5,691 patients. They found that low vitamin D levels do significantly increase your risk of both recurrence and death if you have had breast cancer.

The evidence that vitamin D plays a major role in breast cancer prevention and treatment is so overwhelming that even Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests women with breast cancer have their vitamin D levels checked. They won't advise taking vitamin D to fight breast cancer yet. But they can't deny the evidence.

If you've had breast cancer and you want to reduce your risk of recurrence and death, then make sure you're getting plenty of vitamin D.

However, I don't think you should stop with breast cancer. Vitamin D and even calcium are major players in all types of cancer and other aspects of your health. Men and women both need to make sure their vitamin D levels, at a minimum, are above 50 ng/mL. Even better, keep them above 70 ng/mL. Most labs can run this test. Or you can do it at home using a $50 test kit from the Vitamin D Council.

Most of us need to take 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily to reach and maintain these levels.