Aggressive Breast Cancer Linked to Low Levels of Vitamin D
Breast Cancer in the News
Breast cancer patients with 25-OH vitamin D deficiencies are more likely to present with aggressive tumors and poorer prognosis than women with optimal levels of vitamin D, according to a recent study from the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Previous research has focused on vitamin D deficiencies and cancer risk, but this is one of the first to look at vitamin D and the progression of breast cancer. The study links low levels of vitamin D with poor scores on every major biological marker that assists doctors in assessing breast cancer outcome.
In a press release, lead researcher Luke J. Peppone, Ph.D., M.P.H., research assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at the URMC James P. Wilmot Cancer Center said:
“The magnitude of the findings was quite surprising. Based on these results, doctors should strongly consider monitoring vitamin D levels among breast cancer patients and correcting them as needed.”
The study examined prognostic factors for 155 women who had breast cancer surgery. Blood tests provided information about vitamin D status within the one year before or after surgery. Researchers collected information on other breast cancer data such as age, race, menopause status, stage of cancer at diagnosis, estrogen and progesterone status, HER2 expression, gene expression, and Oncotype Dx score. (A newer diagnostic test for early-stage breast cancer that looks at a group of 21 genes within a tumor sample.)
The results of the vitamin D tests were then divided into two groups — those with optimal levels of vitamin D (32 mg/ml and higher) and those with sub-optimal levels (lower than 32 mg/ml).
Analysis revealed that more aggressive cancers, like triple-negative tumors, correlated with low levels of vitamin D. Triple-negative breast cancer is more often seen in younger women and minority women, and the study showed that black women and premenopausal women tended to have sub-optimal levels of vitamin D when compared to white women and older women.
The study also found a link between decreasing vitamin D levels and higher Oncotype scores. Women with invasive cancer were more likely than those with non-invasive or stage 0 breast cancer to have lower vitamin D levels.
“Our new research shows that low vitamin D levels correlated with numerous factors that are associated with poor breast cancer outcomes,” said Peppone.
The study, led by Senior Investigator Kristin Skinner, M.D., a URMC associate professor of Surgery and director of the Wilmot Comprehensive Breast Care Center, was presented at the American Society of Breast Surgeons meeting. Study authors say further research is needed.
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