Epidemiological and experimental evidence suggest that vitamin D is protective against the risk of colorectal cancer. Polymorphisms in the gene encoding vitamin D receptor (VDR), which mediates most of the known cellular effects of vitamin D, have been suggested to alter this association. Here, using a tag SNP approach, we comprehensively evaluated the role of common genetic variants in VDR and their interaction with plasma vitamin D levels in relation to colorectal cancer risk in Japanese populations. A total of 356 colorectal cancer cases and 709 matched control subjects were selected from the participants of the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Cohort Study. Among these subjects, 29 VDR single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were selected and genotyped, and plasma vitamin D concentrations were measured. Conditional logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of colorectal cancer, with adjustment for potential confounding factors. Among the results, eight VDR SNPs, namely rs2254210, rs1540339, rs2107301, rs11168267, rs11574113, rs731236, rs3847987 and rs11574143, the latter 5 of which were located in the 3' region, were nominally associated with the risk of colorectal cancer (P = 0.01-0.048). Furthermore, of the above 5 3' region SNPs, the inverse associations for 3 SNPs (rs11574113, rs3847987 and rs11574143) appeared to be evident only in those with high plasma vitamin D concentration. However, neither of these direct and suggestive interaction analysis associations was significant after multiple testing adjustment. Overall, the findings of this study provide only limited support for an association between common genetic variations in VDR and colorectal cancer risk in the Japanese population.