Lower global DNA methylation is associated with genomic instability and it is one of the epigenetic mechanisms relevant to carcinogenesis. Emerging evidence for several cancers suggests that lower overall levels of global DNA methylation in blood are associated with different cancer types, although less is known about breast cancer. We examined global DNA methylation levels using a sibling design in 273 sisters affected with breast cancer and 335 unaffected sisters from the New York site of the Breast Cancer Family Registry. We measured global DNA methylation in total white blood cell (WBC) and granulocyte DNA by two different methods, the [ ( 3) H]-methyl acceptance assay and the luminometric methylation assay (LUMA). Global methylation levels were only modestly correlated between sisters discordant for breast cancer (Spearman correlation coefficients ranged from -0.08 to 0.24 depending on assay and DNA source). Using conditional logistic regression models, women in the quartile with the lowest DNA methylation levels (as measured by the [ ( 3) H]-methyl acceptance assay) had a 1.8-fold (95% CI = 1.0-3.3) higher relative association with breast cancer than women in the quartile with the highest DNA methylation levels. When we examined the association on a continuous scale, we also observed a positive association (odds ratio, OR = 1.3, 95% CI = 1.0-1.7, for a one unit change in the natural logarithm of the DPM/μg of DNA). We observed no association between measures by the LUMA assay and breast cancer risk. If replicated in prospective studies, this study suggests that global DNA methylation levels measured in WBC may be a potential biomarker of breast cancer risk even within families at higher risk of cancer.