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Research nets results in quest for ‘The Cure’ | Guest Column
By Chandini Portteus
You may be well aware of vitamin D’s part in building better bones, but did you know it might also help in prevention of breast cancer?
Unfortunately, many of us in the Northwest are not getting enough vitamin D. Overweight individuals are at increased risk of low vitamin D levels, possibly because excess fat absorbs and holds onto vitamin D, making it unavailable to the body.
With funding from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Anne McTiernan, M.D, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has embarked on an important new study investigating vitamin D insufficiency and weight, two inter-related risk factors for breast cancer. Many studies have shown that being overweight can result in an increase in risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Vitamin D may reduce production of fat tissue, which would result in lowering breast cancer risk factors related to obesity. Vitamin D by itself has also been associated with a reduction in the creation of cancer in laboratory experiments.
Dr. McTiernan’s study enrolled 218 women in a year-long, nutrition and exercise-based weight loss program. Participants met regularly with a study nutritionist to learn strategies for healthy eating and weight loss, and also worked closely with a specialist to develop and maintain a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise program. Enrollees were randomly assigned to receive a daily dose of vitamin D or a placebo pill with no active ingredient.
“To our knowledge, there are no prior studies on the effect of vitamin D and weight on breast cancer prevention, and the proposed study is therefore highly novel,” says Dr. McTiernan. “If positive results follow, it can translate into clinical and public health practice, and may provide women and physicians with additional options for reducing risk for breast cancer.”
Dr. McTiernan’s research is just one example of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s global medical research funds being invested right here in the Puget Sound region, with a focus on breast cancer prevention and early detection. Susan G. Komen is the largest non-government funder of breast cancer research in the world. Komen has invested over $2 billion into research and community health in its 30 years, providing $58 million in new research funding for 2012 alone.
Funding scientific research into a cure for breast cancer is an important way Komen Puget Sound invests the money it receives through donations. Twenty-five percent of net funds raised is pooled and distributed through Komen National Breast Cancer Research and Training Grants. The other 75 percent supports early detection, mammogram screenings and treatment support for low income and underserved women throughout Western Washington.
Finding ways to prevent breast cancer is a major goal of Komen’s research program. We invest in research like this to help women get the best answers, based on good science, on ways they can reduce their risk of breast cancer or avoid it all together.
— Editor’s note: Chandini Portteus of Susan G. Komen for the Cure is vice president of research, evaluation & scientific programs.