Polymorphisms in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene have been analyzed in several studies for an association with prostate cancer (PCA) and odds ratios (OR) > or = 3 have been observed in study populations from North America. We studied three polymorphisms in the VDR gene (poly-A microsatellite, TaqI and FokI RFLPs) in 105 controls and 132 sporadic PCA cases from France and in a collection of families from Germany and France. The polymorphisms near the 3' end of the gene were in linkage disequilibrium with an almost complete coincidence of the short poly-A alleles and t (presence of the restriction site) of the TaqI polymorphism, (contingency tables, P<0.0001). An association was found by logistic regression for the poly-A between PCA and the heterozygous genotype (S/L; S < 17, L > or = 17, OR=0.44, 95% confidence interval, CI=0.198-0.966, P=0.041). OR was lower in patients < or = 70 years old and patients with a Gleason score > or = 6. The Tt genotype of the TaqI RFLP also showed an association with PCA (OR=0.5, CI=0.27-0.92, P=0.026). This association was also stronger for patients < or = 70 years old (OR=0.31, CI=0.15-0.63, P=0.001). The risk alleles were S and t alleles as indicated by the OR of the homozygotes, although these were not significant. The FokI RFLP at the 5' end of the gene did not reveal any association (P>0.7). While some association studies differ between Europe and North America, our present findings with the VDR gene agree with those from North America, indicating a weak but general role of the VDR in PCA susceptibility.