Flaxseed and vitamin D for triple-negative?

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Question from Marc-2: Do you recommend that triple-negative breast cancer patients take flaxseed and vitamin D?
Answers - Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. A recent study that was published in the July 2008 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine discussed therapeutic levels of vitamin D in the prevention of cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. The current recommendation is for maintaining levels of greater than 45 nanograms per milliliter. Vitamin D levels can be evaluated by a blood test specifically for 25-hydroxy vitamin D. Patients who are deficient in vitamin D can increase their levels by taking an oral supplement of vitamin D3 or their body can produce vitamin D with 15-20 minutes per day of sun exposure. Flaxseed has been touted in many trials, none of which I believe are randomized, to have anti-cancer properties. But in and of itself, I do not believe it has ever been proven to prevent cancer. Flaxseed can help to eliminate excess fats in the colon from colonic absorption, therefore the decrease in the absorption of fat can lead to decreased body fat being converted to estradiol. Therefore you could postulate the positive effects, particularly in patients with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, through this pathway.
George Sledge, M.D. At this year's ASCO symposium, Dr. Pamela Goodwin of Toronto, Canada presented an interesting study regarding vitamin D levels. In this study, women with newly diagnosed breast cancer had vitamin D levels drawn, and then these patients were followed for many years. In this study, patients who had low levels of vitamin D at the time of diagnosis were at greater risk for later recurrence of their breast cancer than patients who had normal levels of vitamin D. The difference was quite impressive. While this certainly in no way proves that vitamin D prevents recurrence of breast cancer, as that question would require a prospective study to answer, taking vitamin D at the level of say 1000 units per day is cheap and safe and appropriate from a bone health standpoint. So it is difficult for me to imagine why we couldn't recommend this to women who have been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. I encourage my patients, after testing to determine their baseline level, to have vitamin D replacement to a therapeutic level and I explain to them that although I do not believe that this is the silver bullet to prevent breast cancer recurrence, it certainly won't hurt them and as previously stated by Dr. Sledge, the information that we currently know supports the fact that vitamin D does play a role in this process. Therefore I think the benefits of 1000 I.U. per day certainly outweigh any risk that vitamin D could possibly present for patients.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Triple-Negative Breast Cancer featured George Sledge, M.D. and Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about triple-negative breast cancer and its treatment.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in July 2008.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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