Most studies suggest that if someone in your family had colon or breast cancer, it significantly increases your risk for contracting one of these diseases. But two new studies suggest you can cut your risk of breast cancer in half. And you can cut your risk of colon cancer by as much as 67%.

The new studies indicate that all you have to do to reduce your risk is take one simple supplement.

A research team pooled more than 1,700 records from two separate studies on vitamin D. They divided them into five groups according to their vitamin D levels. Those with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood (approximately 52 ng/Ml) had the lowest risk. They were a whopping 50% less likely to get breast cancer than those measuring less than 13 ng/ml.

To get to the higher level, you would have to take 4,000 IU per day of vitamin D, says Dr. Cedric Garland of UCSD, who headed the study. The researchers also recommend you get an additional 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day. That could generate an additional 300 IU of vitamin D right in your skin.

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In the other study, researchers found a similar result with colon cancer. They found that raising vitamin D level to 34 ng/mL reduces your risk colon cancer by half. Lead author Edward Gorham, MPH, PhD, a research epidemiologist with the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego said higher levels are even better. "We project a two-thirds reduction in incidence with serum levels of 46 ng/mL." Please read that again. You can reduce your risk of colon cancer by 67%. And all you have to do is increase your vitamin D level to 46 ng/mL.

I've said for years that you need to take 4,000 to 5,000 units of vitamin D every day. It takes at least that much to keep your blood levels in the upper range. These studies further confirm my recommendation. Not only can this cut your risk of breast and colon cancer, but it can also cut your risk of MS (which I'll tell you more about in the May issue of Second Opinion).

Taking vitamin D may be the most valuable step you can take to prevent cancer. I'm measuring vitamin D on all my patients. And I'm doing it in the summer too. We're just not getting enough vitamin D these days. My wife and I even had low levels and we eat a very healthy diet.

I think everyone needs to take vitamin D. In the winter, My wife and I take 10,000 IU daily. We cut our dose to 5,000 IU in the summer. If you decide to take vitamin D, stick with vitamin D3. It's a natural form - unlike D2, which isn't well absorbed. My favorite brand is made by BioTech. You can order it directly from the company by calling 800-345-1199.

Ref: J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. Published online January 30, 2007; Am J Prev Med. 2007;32:210-216.

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