Vitamin D and breast cancer

Ann Epidemiol. 2009 Jul;19(7):462-7. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2009.01.003. Epub 2009 Feb 20.


Though the relationship between vitamin D and breast cancer remains unclear, a growing body of evidence suggests that vitamin D may modestly reduce risk. A large number of in vitro studies indicate that vitamin D can inhibit cell proliferation and promote apoptosis and cell differentiation in breast tumor tissue. Results from analytic studies of sunlight exposure and dietary intake have been inconsistent but together generally support a modestly protective role of vitamin D, at least in some population subgroups. Studies using blood vitamin D metabolites to assess vitamin D status may be less prone to misclassification than those of diet and sunlight exposure. Overall, the two prospective and four case-control studies of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D tend to support a protective effect in older women. The relationship between common vitamin D receptor polymorphisms and risk remains unclear. Many questions about this relationship clearly remain, including the utility of assessing vitamin D through diet and sunlight exposure, the relationship between plasma metabolites, and the potential modifying effects of age, menopausal status and tumor characteristics. Given that vitamin D status is modifiable, additional prospective studies are necessary to determine if vitamin D may have important potential for breast cancer prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Sunlight
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology*
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage
  • Vitamins / pharmacology*


  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D