Should Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer Avoid Soy?

Five studies have been performed on breast cancer survival and soy foods, involving more than 10,000 breast cancer patients. And, those who eat more soy live longer, and have a lower risk of the cancer coming back. But, what about women who carry breast cancer genes? Fewer than 10% of breast cancer cases run in families. But, when they do, it’s most likely mutations to one of the tumor suppressor genes—BRCA1 or BRCA2—that defend the integrity of our genes. They are involved in DNA repair, and so, if either one of them is damaged, or has mutations, chromosomal abnormalities can result, which can set us up for cancer.

This idea that we have tumor suppressor genes goes back to famous research in the 60s that showed that if you fuse together a normal cell with a cancer cell, the cancer cell doesn’t turn the normal cell malignant. Rather, the normal cell suppresses the cancerous one. Tumor suppressor genes are typically split up into two types. There are gatekeeper genes that keep cancer cells in check, and caretaker genes that keep the cell from going cancerous in the first place. And, BRCA genes appear able to do both—that’s why their function is so important.

breast-cancer-and-soy-concernsUntil recently, dietary recommendations for those with mutations focused on reducing DNA damage caused by free radicals, by eating lots of antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables. If your DNA-repair capacity is low, you want to be extra careful about damaging your DNA in the first place. But, what if we could also boost BRCA function?

In my last video on the topic, I showed how, in vitro, soy phytoestrogens could turn back on BRCA protection suppressed by breast cancer, upregulating BRCA expression as much as 1,000% within 48 hours. But, does that translate out of the petri dish and into the person? Apparently so.

Soy intake was only associated with 27% breast cancer risk reduction in people with normal BRCA genes, but a 73% risk reduction in carriers of BRCA gene mutations. So, a healthy diet may be particularly important in those at high genetic risk. Meat consumption, for example, was linked to twice as much risk in those with BRCA mutations—97% increased risk, instead of just 41% increased risk of breast cancer in those with normal BRCA genes.

Doctor’s Note

What about for women without breast cancer genes, or for women who have already been diagnosed? That was the subject of my last video, Is Soy Healthy for Breast Cancer Survivors?. The older video I referred to is BRCA Breast Cancer Genes & Soy.

What is in meat that may increase risk? See, for example:

Featured Image From Authority Nutrition and Livestrong.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

How to Make Stevia Extract to Reduce Your Sugar Intake

how-to-make-stevia-extractI’ve shied away from stevia in the past, because I hate its aftertaste. But, if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake, it is probably your best option of sweetener to use. So how can we make it more palatable? Today I’ll show you how to make your own stevia extract that doesn’t have a horrid aftertaste.

Years ago, I went to a cooking class on gluten-free and sugar-free baking. It was the worst cooking class I have ever attended – for various reasons! It was a demonstration, and the foods that were prepared were very high in refined carbohydrates (albeit gluten free ones) and fats. But no sugar – they used stevia instead. When we got to taste the dishes – I hated them all! I think that was the first time I had ever had stevia – and that aftertaste just wouldn’t go away.

But today, after some investigation, I am a little more tolerant of stevia. You can reduce or avoid its aftertaste,which makes stevia a good option to help you transition to avoiding sugar and other artificial sweeteners.

Stevia comes from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, and is usually found as a powder or a liquid extract. The active compounds of stevia are steviol glycoside – which has 150 times the sweetness of sugar. Stevia does not affect blood glucose levels, and some studies show it may help improve insulin sensitivity.

What I have found is that the bitter aftertaste is apparent when too high a concentration of stevia is used. Even though recipes with stevia call for just a few drops – if the extract or powder is really concentrated, that can still be too much. So taking it easy is the way to go.

To make stevia powder, collect stevia leaves and dry them, then finely chop them in a blender. The dried leaf powder can be used as is, in certain recipes – but they won’t dissolve, so don’t try them in your coffee!

There are many different ways to prepare an extract, with variables including:

  • using fresh leaves or dried leaves

    I use fresh leaves that I grow myself. They are easy to grow, and the plant regrows every year. The ideal time to harvest the leaves is around August – when the flowers start to appear but before the flowers start dying. If you leave it too late, you are more likely to get bitterness. If you can’t get fresh leaves, you can buy the dried leaves and use them instead.

  • with alcohol or  without alcohol

    I use alcohol – vodka – for my extract, because it extracts the sweetness well, and quickly. Any recipe calls for only a few drops of extract, which means there is negligible alcohol in the final product.

  • duration of the extraction time

    I extract for a relatively short period because, again, I find that the sweetness comes through quickly, and there is more likely to be an aftertaste if you leave the leaves in the alcohol for a longer period.

  • concentrating the extract by heating

    I choose not to heat the extract and reduce it as I don’t want it to be highly concentrated. By leaving the extract as it is, the amount you put into a recipe is more controllable. Yes, maybe I’ll use 6 drops instead of 2, but I can taste it as I go along and adjust the sweetness to how I want it.

Obviously, you can adjust these to your own taste. Here’s the recipe. I hope you’ll give it a try. If you live near me and want some leaves – just let me know.H

Homemade stevia extract:

Ingredients

  • Fresh stevia leaves
  • Unflavored vodka
  • (you can vary the amount as you wish – for proportions, see the recipe).

Instructions

  1. Wash the stevia leaves
  2. Roughly tear the leaves into a couple of pieces and place them in a clean jar. I filled the jar with leaves – but they weren’t compressed down.
  3. Add enough vodka to cover the leaves. For my jar, this was about half full as the liquid compresses the leaves.
  4. Seal and shake the jar.
  5. Leave for 8-12 hours. Taste the liquid to see if it is sweet enough.
  6. Strain the liquid into a bottle and discard the leaves.
  7. Keep the bottle in the dark, or use a brown colored bottle. Having a dropper helps, as only a few drop are needed to sweeten foods.
Recipe Type: Sugar-free, gluten free, vegan, paleo, sugar substitute

Notes:

If you prefer a more concentrated extract, you can gently simmer the extract to boil off some of the alcohol.

Ruth BaillieRuth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Prevent Breast Cancer With These 5 Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Healthy Lifestyle Choices To Prevent CancerNecessary Lifestyle Choices for Optimum Health
An anti-cancer lifestyle will include a variety of exercise, organic foods, clean pure water and air. There are a few easy steps to keep the body safe and healthy. It is important to cultivate an awareness of what feels and taste right going into your body. It is equally important to stop and take notice of bad choices. Ask yourself “Is this good or bad for me? “Will it make me feel better or worse?” We all want to feel alive and vital.

1. Exercise – Yoga
Practicing restorative yoga has shown through studies to encourage and improve sleep and to enhance overall quality of life. (Reuters Health) – About one third of breast cancer survivors experience fatigue that affects their quality of life. A new study found that doing yoga might help restore some lost vitality. (bit.ly/sSZeZZ)

There are some simple suggestions to start exploring a change in vitality:

2. Cancer Prevention Foods – Vegetarian/Vegan Diet
It is suggested to eat a plant base diet of fruits and vegetables: make your diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables that are full of micronutrients and bioflavonoids which are duly noted to help prevent breast cancer or other cancers. Five or more servings per day is recommended by the American Cancer Institute. Red and blue berries hold a significant amount of necessary cell builders and anti-cancinogens that are a necessity on our tables.

Here are some simple choices to select from to start improving your health:

3. Water Therapy – Alkaline Water
Alkaline water (referred to as ionized water) can neutralize or decrease the acidity of the body’s pH caused by stress, modern diet, and air pollution. We suggest trying this water and feeling the possible positive effects.

Find a water store and get alkaline water by the gallon (it usually stays charged with negative ions for up to 48hours)
Purchase if possible a home alkaline water system that filters pollutants as well as charging the water with negative ions and anti oxidants

  • Benefit from the many ways to use alkaline water like necessary hydration for the body’s cells

4. Manage Stress – Learn to breathe
Deep breathing is vital in that it encourages the release of body toxins, rebuild healthy tissue which consequently increases overall energy. This true oxygen exchange stimulates digestion, assimilation and elimination. A very important function of breathing fully and slowly is that the body’s natural relaxation response is prompted. This relaxation response results in decreased tension, anxiety and fatigue.

A great place to start is with our single down-loadable breathing exercises or you could do the following.

5. Laugh Often – Emotional Balancing
It has been shown that even when manipulated to smile people in truth feel happier and joyful. Laughter can stop depression right in its tracks and boosts our immunity.

We suggest the following to bring on happiness.

  • Have a daily joke sent to your e-mail
  • Watch funny YouTube videos
  • Listen to the comedy channel on the radio
  • Download comedians from iTunes
Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us atinfo@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Is Soy Healthy for Breast Cancer Survivors?

is-soy-healthy-for-breast-cancer-survivorsSoyfoods have become controversial in recent years,…even among health professionals,…exacerbated by misinformation found on the Internet.” Chief among the misconceptions is that soy foods promote breast cancer, because they contain a class of  phytoestrogen compounds called isoflavones. Since estrogens can promote breast cancer growth, it’s natural to assume phytoestrogens might too.

But, people don’t realize there are two types of estrogen receptors in the body—alpha and beta. And, unlike actual estrogen, soy phytoestrogens “preferentially bind to and activate [estrogen receptor beta]. This distinction is important, because the 2 [types of receptors] have different tissue distributions…and often function differently, and sometimes in opposite ways.” And, this appears to be the case in the breast, where beta activation has an anti-estrogenic effect, inhibiting the growth-promoting effects of actual estrogen—something we’ve known for more than ten years. There’s no excuse anymore.

The effects of estradiol, the primary human estrogen, on breast cells are completely opposite to those of soy phytoestrogens, which have antiproliferative effects on breast cancer cells, even at the low concentrations one gets in one’s bloodstream eating just a few servings of soy—which makes sense, given that after eating a cup of soybeans, the levels in our blood cause significant beta receptor activation.

So, where did this outdated notion that soy could increase breast cancer risk come from? The concern was “based largely on research that showed that [the main soy phytoestrogen] genistein stimulates the growth of mammary tumors in [a type of] mouse.” But, it turns out, we’re not actually mice. We metabolize soy isoflavones very differently from rodents. The same soy leads to 20 to 150 times higher levels in the bloodstream of rodents. The breast cancer mouse in question was 58 times higher. So, if you ate 58 cups of soybeans a day, you could get some significant alpha activation, too. But, thankfully, we’re not hairless athymic ovariectomized mice, and we don’t tend to eat 58 cups of soybeans a day.

At just a few servings of soy a day, with the excess beta activation, we would assume soy would actively help prevent breast cancer. And, indeed, “[s]oy intake during childhood, adolescence, and adult life were each associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer.” Those women who ate the most soy in their youth appear to grow up to have less than half the risk.

This may help explain why breast cancer rates are so much higher here than in Asia—yet, when Asians come over to the U.S. to start eating and living like Americans, their risk shoots right up.  For example, women in Connecticut—way at the top of the breast cancer risk heap—in their fifties have, like, ten times more breast cancer than women in their fifties living in Japan. But, it’s not just genetic, since when they move here, their breast cancer rates go up generation after generation, as they assimilate into our culture.

Are the anti-estrogenic effects of soy foods enough to actually change the course of the disease? We didn’t know, until the first human study on soy food intake and breast cancer survival was published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggesting that “[a]mong women with breast cancer, soy food consumption was significantly associated with decreased risk of death and [breast cancer] recurrence.” Followed by another study, and then another, all with similar findings.

That was enough for the American Cancer Society, who brought together a wide range of cancer experts to offer nutrition guidelines for cancer survivors, to conclude that, if anything, soy foods should be beneficial. Since then, two additional studies have been published, for a total of five, and they all point in the same direction. Five out of five, tracking more than 10,000 breast cancer patients.

Pooling all the results, soy food intake after breast cancer diagnosis was associated with reduced mortality (meaning a longer lifespan) and reduced recurrence—so, less likely the cancer comes back. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t cracked a journal open in seven years.

And, this improved survival was for both women with estrogen receptor negative tumors and estrogen receptor positive tumors, and for both younger women, and for older women. Pass the edamame.

Doctor’s Note

This is probably the same reason flax seeds are so protective. See Flax Seeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Epidemiological Evidence and Flax Seeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Clinical Evidence.

What about women who carry breast cancer genes? I touched on that in BRCA Breast Cancer Genes & Soy, and it’s the topic of my next video, Should Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer Avoid Soy?

What about genetically modified soy? I made a video abut that too; see GMO Soy & Breast Cancer.

Who Shouldn’t Eat Soy? Glad you asked. Watch that video too! 🙂

Not all phytoestrogens may be protective, though. See The Most Potent Phytoestrogen is in Beer and What are the Effects of the Hops Phytoestrogen in Beer?

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

Food for Cancer – Diet and Recipes

food_that_fight_cancerDiet for Cancer

Eating healthy diet, rich with valuable nutrients, is crucial not only for people with cancer but, really, for everyone.

Why go vegan?
Many studies show the connection between eating animal products and deadly disease such as cancer. And the truth is, that even without reading those studies, it’s pretty easy to see for yourself: try to replace any animal food (meat, dairy, eggs) with whole natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and see how you feel. Within a short period of time you will probably notice a positive change.

Plant based diet, rich with antioxidants, is what our body needs to prevent cancer and also to fight it. I’m not saying that a person that has cancer should not treat it in the traditional medical way. I’m just saying that a good plant based healthy diet will help the body to heal. So if a person is suffering from cancer, and they have the option to drop the bacon (BIG cancer cause!) for lentil soup (or salad; or apple anything truly healthy!), they better do it.

My blog offers a valuable information for those who like to know more about how they can prevent and treat cancer. Here is a quick reference:

There are specific foods that help fight cancer; I listed them here. 

Lots of recipes from my blog can be included in a special diet for cancer. This is the page with all those recipes. 

There is one more Issue that you may like to address: the deadly chemicals in your beauty products. You may not know, but your deodorant, shampoo, body lotion and all the others may contain harsh chemicals that were found in tumors!
This is a list of the 8 deadly chemicals that you van find in most beauty products

And if you are confused and not sure which beauty products to use, why don’t you try to do it yourself? here you can find a great home-made DIY recipes for an amazing body butter and face moisturizer. 

Enjoy!

Visit: www.NeverMeatAgain.com

Email: neeva@goldfish1.com

Protein Rich Meal Idea For A Cancer Diet: Green Beans With Tomato Sauce

green-beans-with-tomato-sauceA simple but so delicious dish, packed with plant-based protein which is the best for us!
You may eat it as is or mix it with rice.

What you need:

4 cups of green beans. Cut the edges of both sides of each bean.
5-6 ripe tomatoes, cut to cubes
1 large onion, chopped well
2 garlic cloves, chopped well
Optional: 5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped. Or you may use dry leaves
Salt to taste
3 spoons Avocado oil
Filtered water to cover

What to do:

  1. Use wide pot to saute the onion and the garlic in the avocado oil until they are soft.
  2. Add the tomatoes and let cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and the basil. Mix well.
  4. Add the green peas, mix gently and add water to cover.
  5. Let boil, and then lower the heat and cook with cover until the beans are soft and ready to eat. If you like less sauce you may cook half covered.

I recommend to eat it with rice. Here is a great, very simple recipe for white basmati rice:

What you need:

  • 2 cups white basmati rice
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: either 1 tbsp turmeric (for a yellow rice), or 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 spoons avocado oil

What to do:

  1. Warm the avocado oil in a large pot and add the rice with salt and either the turmeric or cumin seeds (or just plain rice). Mix well.
  2. Add the water and cook covered until boil. Then lower the heat and cook half covered until there are no more water. Then cover the pot completely and turn off the heat. Leave for 5 minutes and there you go! You have one of best rice dishes in the world!

Enjoy!

Visit: www.NeverMeatAgain.com

Email: neeva@goldfish1.com

4 Reasons Vegan Is Best For Combating Breast Cancer

Naturalist: Corissa Macklin-Rice

Naturalist: Corissa Macklin-Rice

A cancer prevention diet is one that is high in fiber, low in fat (especially animal fat), and includes generous portions of fruits and vegetables. It also minimizes or excludes alcohol. The best diets are pure vegetarian diets.

4 Reasons Vegan Is Best For Combating Breast Cancer:

  1. If you can remove carcinogenicity from the would-be cancer sufferers and thereby the link between environmental and dietary exposures of a multitude of toxins, organic plant based diet would be the obvious “cure”.
  2. Controlled clinical trials to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that our bodies can benefit from the phytonutrients and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables in the prevention of cancer.
  3. Women believe prevention as doing nothing but waiting for the detection of the disease. the real preventative measures available to women to combat breast cancer, and all cancers for that matter, are available from trusted “authoritative” sources that prove plant based diets prevent cancer.
  4. Vegan diet has been promoted as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.

Nutrition Journal evidence based research says an anticancer diet would have:

• adequate, but not excessive calories,

• 10 or more servings of vegetables a day, including cruciferous and allium vegetables; vegetable juice could meet part of this goal,

• 4 or more servings of fruits a day,

• high in fiber,

• no refined sugar,

• no refined flour,

• low in total fat, but containing necessary essential fatty acids,

• no red meat,

• a balanced ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fats and would include DHA,

• flax seed as a source of phytoestrogens,

• supplemented with ~200 μg/day selenium,

• supplemented with 1,000 μg/day methylcobalamin (B-12),

• very rich in folic acid (from dark green vegetables),

• adequate sunshine to get vitamin D, or use 1,000 IU/day supplement,

• very rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables, including α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, vitamin C (from foods), vitamin E (from foods),

• very rich in chlorophyll,

• supplemented with beneficial probiotics,

• supplemented with oral enzymes

Nutrition research has found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables protects against cancer. (The greatest message is that this same diet protects against almost all other diseases, too, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.) There are many mechanisms by which fruits and vegetables are protective, and an enormous body of research supports the recommendation for people to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Featured photo: Daily Mail

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us atinfo@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Why BPA (Synthetic Estrogen) Hasn’t Been Banned

“The number of new chemicals is increasing exponentially”—we’re talking 12,000 new substances a day. Yet, data aren’t available on the hazards of even some of the high volume chemicals. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals, with billions of pounds produced each year. And, studies have “raised concerns about its possible implication in the [cause] of some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, reproductive disorders, cardiovascular diseases, birth defects, chronic respiratory and kidney diseases and breast cancer.”

A new study on the health implications of BPA comes out nearly every week. BPA was first developed over a hundred years ago as a synthetic estrogen. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that industry realized it could be used to make polycarbonate plastic, and it rapidly became one of the most used chemicals worldwide, even though it was recognized to have hormonal effects. About a billion pounds are also used to line food and beverage cans—especially, it seems, in tuna and condensed soups.

And now, we basically all have BPA in our bodies, and our children’s bodies. But, not to worry; the government says up to 50 a day is safe; 50 micrograms per kilogram. And, even those working in Chinese BPA factories don’t get exposed to more than like 70 times lower than that safety limit. Okay, then, why did exposure seem to affect the male workers’ sperm counts?

how-to-avoid-bpaIn the U.S., the general population only gets less than like a thousand times lower than the safety limit. Yet, still, we seem to be seeing “adverse effects on thyroid function, weight control, blood sugar control, cardiovascular disease, liver function, and immune function”—even at those incredibly low doses. So, “[t]he fact that there are significant adverse effects in populations exposed to BPA at concentrations [thousands of] times lower than the [official tolerable daily limit] indicates that the safe exposure to BPA may be much lower than previously thought in humans.” Yet, the limit hasn’t been changed. It’s been banned from baby bottles and sippy cups, but nearly unlimited doses are still apparently okay for everyone else. What’s the disconnect here?

It has to do with the fascinating world of low-dose effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals. “For decades, [these chemicals] “have challenged traditional concepts in toxicology”—particularly the old adage that it’s “the dose makes the poison,” the concept “that lower exposures to a hazardous compound will, therefore, always generate lower risks.” That’s “the core assumption underlying [our] system of chemical-safety testing.” They start dosing lab animals with super high amounts, and then keep lowering the dose until whatever adverse effects disappear; then, add a safety buffer, and assume everything below that dose should be okay, assuming the curve looks like this. You know, the higher the dose, the higher the effect. But, hormone-disrupting chemicals can have all sorts of “curious curves.” Basically, how could something have more of an effect at a lower dose?

Think about a hormone, and its receptors in the body. At low levels of the hormone, like going from 0 to 1, the receptors can fill up quickly. But, once they’re almost all filled up, going from 4 to 5, adding really high doses may not change things much. Let’s use an actual BPA example. This was a study to see if BPA suppressed an obesity-protective hormone in fat samples taken from breast reduction and tummy tuck patients. As you can see, at a hundred nanomoles of BPA (I feel like a weatherman here!), but at a hundred nanomoles of BPA, you can see hormone levels are no lower than they are at 0 BPA. And, since most people have levels like between 1 and 20, then BPA must be safe. But, here’s the actual graph. So, no suppression at 0; no suppression at 100. But, right where levels are in people’s bodies, BPA appears to cut hormone release nearly in half.

learn-about-bpa-and-breast-cancerAs the world’s oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones concluded, “even infinitesimally low levels of exposure—indeed, any level of exposure at all—may cause [problems],” nearly three billion dollars’ worth of problems every year, just counting the estimated effects of BPA on childhood obesity and heart disease alone.

Now, there are alternatives that the industry could use; the problem, though, is that they may cost two cents more.

Doctor’s Note

BPA isn’t the only problem with canned tuna. Check out:

What can we do to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals? See, for example, Avoiding Adult Exposure to Phthalates, and How to Avoid the Obesity-Related Plastic Chemical BPA.

Alkylphenols are another group of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Learn more about them here:

Featured Image Source Mother Jones

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

Do Vitamin D Supplements Reduce the Risk of Dying from Cancer?

It all started with this famous study, published in 1980. Johns Hopkins researchers were trying to figure out why states like New Mexico and Arizona have only about half the colon cancer rates of states like New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Maybe it’s because they got so much sun. And so, they proposed that maybe the sunshine vitamin—vitamin D—is a protective factor against colon cancer. Since then, sun exposure has been associated with lower rates of 14 other types of cancer, too.

Vitamin D may also affect cancer survival. Higher blood levels of vitamin D were associated with lower mortality of patients with colorectal cancer. How much lower? Like nearly half the mortality. And, the higher the D levels, the lower the death rate appeared to fall. This may explain why the survival rate from colon cancer may depend, on part, on the season of diagnosis—the reason the risk of a rapid death is lowest if you’re diagnosed in the fall, after you’ve spent the summer building up your vitamin D stores.

But look; there are other risk factors that could be seasonal, too. Maybe people are taking advantage of the fall harvest, and eating healthier. Maybe that’s why the lower risk in the fall season. Or, maybe there’s more drinking in the winter. And, in the summer, running around outside, not only are you getting more sun; you’re running around outside, getting more exercise—which may itself be protective.

So, these kinds of studies just provide circumstantial evidence. Establishing a cause-and-effect relationship between colon cancer and vitamin D deficiency using observational studies is challenging, because of confounding factors like the exercise—so-called “lurking variables.” For example, there may be a tight correlation between ice cream sales and drowning deaths, but that doesn’t mean ice cream causes drowning. A more likely explanation is that there is a lurking third variable—like hot weather, summertime—that explains why drowning deaths are highest when ice cream consumption is highest.

That’s kind of a trivial example. But, this actually happened with hormone replacement therapy. Women taking drugs like Premarin appeared to have 50% less risk of heart disease. And so, doctors prescribed it to women by the millions. But, if you dig a little deeper into the data, yes, women taking estrogen had 50% lower risk of dying from heart disease. But, they also had a 50% lower risk of dying from accidents and homicide. So, it probably wasn’t the drug. See, the only way to know for sure is to put it to the test, in a randomized clinical trial, where you give half the women the drug, and see what happens.

And, a decade later, they did. And, instead of having a 50% drop in risk, within a year of being given the hormone pills, heart attack and death rates shot up 50%. In retrospect, the lurking variable was likely socioeconomic class. Poor women are less likely to be prescribed hormone replacement therapy, and more likely to be murdered, and die of heart disease. Because of the lurking variable, a drug we now know to be dangerous had appeared protective.

Besides lurking variables, there’s also the possibility of reverse causation. Maybe low vitamin D levels didn’t worsen the cancer. Maybe the cancer worsened the vitamin D levels. This may be unlikely, since tumors don’t appear to directly affect vitamin D levels. But cancer treatment might. Even simple knee surgery can dramatically drop vitamin D levels within hours, thought to be because of just the inflammatory insult of cutting into somebody. So, maybe that could help explain the link between lower D, and lower survival. And hey, if you’ve got cancer, maybe you’re spending less time running around at the beach.

So, yes, higher vitamin D levels are associated with improved survival in colorectal cancer, and in breast cancer. In fact, about double the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death in women with the lowest vitamin D levels. And, vitamin D levels also associated with longer survival with ovarian cancer, and other cancers, like lymphoma. But, bottom-line, as we learned with hormone replacement, is that you have to put it to the test. But, there weren’t a lot of randomized controlled trials on vitamin D supplements and cancer—until now.

We now have a few randomized controlled trials, and vitamin D supplements do indeed appear to reduce the risk of dying from cancer. What dose? The researchers suggest maybe getting blood levels up to at least around 75 nanomoles per liter; levels not reached by as many as three-quarters of women with breast cancer, or a striking 97% of colon cancer patients.

Getting up to these kinds of levels, 75, or perhaps even better, 100, might require about 2,000 to 4,000 international units of vitamin D a day—levels of intake for which there appear to be no credible evidence of harm. Regardless of what the exact level is, the findings of these kinds of studies may have a profound influence on future cancer treatment.

Doctor’s Note

What about just getting sun, instead? Be sure to check out my recent six-part video series:

Better, of course, to prevent colon cancer in the first place. See, for example:

For more on that extraordinary story about Premarin and hormone replacement therapy, see How Did Doctors Not Know About the Risks of Hormone Therapy?

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

Best Diet To Prevent Cancer? Paleo? Ketogenic? Vegan?

What is the best diet for preventing cancer? Does the paleo diet stop cancer? What about the ketogenic diet and cancer? Can a wholefood plant based diet prevent cancer? Can we be healthy if we don’t eat meat? Do we need meat to be healthy and cancer free? What about free range, organic, grass fed meat- can eating it prevent cancer? What diet does the American Institute for Cancer research recommend for preventing cancer? What diet does the American Cancer Society recommend for preventing cancer? Keep listening as Dr Michael Greger answers these questions…….

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

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