Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women after skin cancer. Yet, despite all the awareness this disease receives, there will still be an estimated over 290,000 cased diagnosed in 2022 alone.1 One reason may be that truly preventative therapies are all too often dismissed. Key word here is prevention. Mammograms are not true prevention – they are technically earlier diagnosis. Of course, earlier diagnosis is better than late diagnosis, but true prevention is even better. Finding cancer early is good, but preventing cancer from happening in the first place is best.
A recent study sheds light on how the paradigm of breast cancer prevention may finally be shifting. This comprehensive review from the London Breast Institute gleaned the data in 104 published studies on breast cancer and micronutrients. Their findings suggest four micronutrients that definitively protect against breast cancer by inhibiting the growth, invasion and metastasis of breast cancer cells:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B9 (folate)
At Spectracell, the relationship between these four nutrients and breast cancer has long been understood as evidenced by the fact that all four are cited in the MicroNutrients & Breast Cancer Flyer (download here.) But, the precise physiologic mechanism of protection is explained in more detail in this review paper.
What is particularly interesting is that each of nutrients have multiple protective roles, via various pathways. In other words, it’s not just one vitamin = one role. In reality, one vitamin = multiple protective roles. That’s good news for those of us whose cells are replete with these key vitamins. If you have a deficiency in one of these vitamins, the good news is that you can measure your cell’s status and correct any deficiency that exists. In doing so, your cells are better equipped to fight breast cancer before it starts.
Here’s a taste of how each vitamin works against breast cancer:
VITAMIN D – treating breast cancer cells with vitamin D suppresses their growth and promotes apoptosis (cell death) in rogue cells. One analysis showed a 35% reduction in breast cancer risk when vitamin D status was healthy, particularly in pre-menopausal women. A dearth of data links vitamin D deficiency with increased risk of breast cancer. Correct your deficiency = reduce your risk. But like most vitamins (see vitamin B9 below), it is important to not over-supplement. For more on this scenario, click here: The Vitamin D Paradox.
VITAMIN A – in a large prospective analysis with 20 years of follow-up, women with higher levels of vitamin A had a reduced risk of breast cancer, particularly for the more aggressive cancers. Its role in regulating growth factors in breast tissue is likely a mechanistic link to its protective function.
VITAMIN B6 – This vitamin is widely known to buffer inflammation, which can be an exacerbating factor in cancer formation. When over 2500 cases of breast cancer were studied, researchers concluded that higher levels of this vitamin reduced risk by 20%.
VITAMIN B9 (folate) – This vitamin was so named because it was first isolated by distilling down tons (literally) of spinach, which contains high levels of folate. Since green leafy vegetables (like spinach), typically are one of the best sources of vitamin B9, the name was chosen to reflect its common source – foliage. Vitamin B9 can be protective against breast cancer, as this review demonstrates, but it is worth noting that folate (bioavailable form in our cells) is not the same as folic acid (synthetic form in many supplements). Evidence suggests there is a potential for over-supplementation with vitamin B9 so the best course of action would be to determine if a folate deficiency exists at the cellular level, and if so, correct it. Vitamin B9 is one of those vitamins in which “more is not always better.” Replete deficient cells. Don’t create imbalances in cells that already have good nutrient status. Test, first. Then replete.
For more information on the link between Micronutrients and Breast Cancer, click here.
The Spectracell MicroNutrient Test measures these four vitamins plus 30 more. To order your Spectracell Test, click here.
1National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.
2Mokbel K. Chemoprevention of Breast Cancer with Vitamins and Micronutrients: A Concise Review. In Vivo 2019;33:983-997.