Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 [25(OH)D3] is produced in the skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and is a good indicator of vitamin D nutritional status. The aim of this study was to determine summer/winter differences in serum 25(OH)D3 and parathyroid hormone (PTH) in Japanese women and how the summer and winter values are related. The subjects were 122 healthy Japanese women aged 45-81 years (average age: 65.7 years). They were medically examined twice, in September 1997 and February 1999. Serum 25(OH)D3 and intact PTH were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography and a two-site immunoradiometric assay respectively. Lifestyle information was obtained through an interview. The seasonal differences (winter minus summer) in 25(OH)D3 [delta25(OH)D3] and intact PTH concentrations were -18.8 nmol/l (SD 19.2, P<0.0001) and 0.98 pmol/l (SD 1.02, P<0.0001) respectively. The correlation coefficient between summer (x) and winter (y) 25(OH)D3 levels was 0.462 (P<0.0001), with a linearly fitted line of y=0.42x+26.4. This relationship was interpreted as subjects with higher summer 25(OH)D3 values having greater reductions in winter 25(OH)D3 concentrations. There were inter-individual differences in delta25(OH)D3, although the summer and winter 25(OH)D3 concentrations were well-correlated. Since delta25(OH)D3 was not associated with any of the lifestyle factors, seasonal differences in the 25(OH)D3 concentrations of an individual appeared to reflect her ability to produce 25(OH)D3 photochemically in the skin. Sun bathing would be a less effective means of attaining adequate vitamin D nutritional status in a person with a small seasonal difference in 25(OH)D3, i.e., one with a low 25(OH)D3 level.