Hmmm, sound familiar?
A small pilot study published today showed an inverse relationship between serum vitamin D levels and the bone, muscle, and joint symptoms that breast cancer patients often experience when taking aromatase inhibitor (AI) medication. An inverse relationship means (in simple language) that the patients who had the higher the level of vitamin D had fewer of these symptoms that are not just 'annoying' but can also significantly reduce quality of life (muscle weakness, bone pain, muscle pain and joint pain and stiffness).
Vitamin D Insufficiency and Musculoskeletal Symptoms in Breast Cancer Survivors on Aromatase Inhibitor Therapy, Cancer Nursing Volume 32(2) March/April 2009, pp 143-150, Waltman, N et al.
In this small study of only 29 patients in Nebraska, a full 86% (25 of the 29 patients) had serum vitamin D levels (25-hydroxy) below normal (<30 style="font-weight: bold;">Special note: in my previous post about prostate cancer and vitamin D, readers may have noticed that the levels discussed in that post seemed different (higher) compared to the levels discussed in this article. I don't know why some levels are reported as ng/mL (this article) and nmol/L (the other article). However, 2.5 is the conversion factor to go from ng/mL to nmol/L. Thus a level of 30 ng/mL in this article is equivalent to 75 nmol/L in the previous article, which was noted in the previous post to be the level of serum vitamin D associated with the best prognosis after a prostate cancer diagnosis.
Bottom line: Breast cancer patients - same advice as for prostate cancer patients. Have your serum vitamin D level checked (25-hydroxy level), and then discuss with your oncologist or primary care physician if you would benefit from supplemental vitamin D, how much, what form, sensible sunshine, and how often to monitor your levels. Aim to achieve a level above 30 ng/mL or 75 nmol/L.
In addition to higher serum levels of vitamin D potentially increasing quality of life as this article suggests, research is starting to emerge that serum vitamin D levels may also play a role in prognosis of breast cancer (along with both prostate cancer as previously discussed and colon cancer). Much is still to be determined, but making an effort to have your serum vitamin D level checked and having a discussion with your doctor to plan ways to increase your level if appropriate is an easy action plan to potentially improve your quality of life and overall health, too.
Diana Dyer, MS, RD