Global decreases in DNA methylation, particularly in repetitive elements, have been associated with genomic instability and human cancer. Emerging, though limited, data suggest that in white blood cell (WBC) DNA levels of methylation, overall or in repetitive elements, may be associated with cancer risk. We measured methylation levels of three repetitive elements [Satellite 2 (Sat2)], long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1) and Alu) by MethyLight, and LINE-1 by pyrosequencing in a total of 282 breast cancer cases and 347 unaffected sisters from the New York site of the Breast Cancer Family Registry (BCFR) using DNA from both granulocytes and total WBC. We found that methylation levels in all markers were correlated between sisters (Spearman correlation coefficients ranged from 0.17 to 0.55). Sat2 methylation was statistically significantly associated with increased breast cancer risk [odds ratio (OR) = 2.09, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.09-4.03; for each unit decrease in the natural log of the methylation level, OR = 2.12, 95% CI = 0.88-5.11 for the lowest quartile compared with the highest quartile]. These associations were only observed in total WBC but not granulocyte DNA. There was no association between breast cancer and LINE-1 and Alu methylation. If replicated in larger prospective studies, these findings support that selected markers of epigenetic changes measured in WBC, such as Sat2, may be potential biomarkers of breast cancer risk.