The biological role of 1,25(OH)2D3 in controlling Ca++ homeostasis in the body has been identified and widely investigated for a long time. More recently its effect in regulating cell proliferation or differentiated activity was described in a variety of normal and malignant cells. The present study was carried out to investigate the different aspects and biological mechanisms of this activity and to determine if the use of 1,25(OH)2D3 in the treatment of breast cancer patients could be considered. It is found that 1,25(OH)2D3 reduces the proliferation of MCF-7 and BT-20 cells lines regardless of their sex steroid receptor status. This effect is related to the concentration, from 10(-12) M to 10(-8) M. Its amplitude is less in other cell lines, but it opposes the EGF-induced increase of proliferation. It is observed that the proliferation rate of MCF-7 and BT-20 cells is increased when these tumor cells are cocultured with fibroblasts derived from breast tumor biopsies and that 1,25(OH)2D3 reverses this process. Moreover, experiments on DMBA induced mammary tumors in Sprague Dawley rats found that 1,25(OH)2D3 given at non toxic doses reduces significantly the tumor proliferation. These data showed that 1,25(OH)2D3 at low doses is effective on the proliferation of BT-20 and MCF-7 cells and on the paracrine growth stimulatory effect observed in the presence of fibroblasts. They suggest that 1,25(OH)2D3 or related synthetic molecules which are less active on Ca++ metabolism could be useful in the treatment of breast cancer patients.