High prevalence of low vitamin D and musculoskeletal complaints in women with breast cancer

Breast J. Nov-Dec 2010;16(6):609-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2010.01012.x.


Reduced vitamin D levels may play a significant role in the development of fractures and musculoskeletal pains reported in patients on aromatase inhibitors (AIs) for breast cancer. In this study, we evaluated the vitamin D status in postmenopausal women with non-metastatic breast cancer who were about to start AI therapy. This study was conducted on community dwelling postmenopausal subjects, aged 35-80 years, with early non-metastatic breast cancer (up to stage IIIA), who were about to start therapy using third generation AIs. Symptoms of joint and muscle pains were obtained using a modified Leuven menopausal questionnaire. 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] was evaluated by radioimmunoassay while bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine and the proximal femur by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Of the 145 participants (mean age = 60.96 ± 0.88 years), 63 of 145 (43.5%) had baseline levels of 25(OH)D of < 20 ng/mL (deficient), 50 of 145 (34.5%) had levels between 20 and 29 ng/mL (insufficient), and only 32 of 145 (22%) had ≥ 30 ng/mL (sufficient); thus, 113 of 145 (78%) had low 25(OH)D levels (i.e., < 30 ng/mL). Arthralgias and myalgias were found in 61.3% and 43% of patients, respectively; and of those, 83.3% and 88.1% had 25(OH)D of < 30 ng/mL, respectively. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is high in breast cancer women and this may increase the risk of bone loss and fractures in those who are going to start AIs. Moreover, musculoskeletal pains are common in breast cancer women, even before the initiation of AIs and in association with low vitamin D in the majority. Future studies may be needed to establish the contribution of low vitamin D, if any, on the prevalence of musculoskeletal pains in women on AIs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Density
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D