Vitamin D status may affect risk of cancer. In a cross-sectional study with a nested case-control analysis, we determined whether risk of breast cancer is associated with prediagnostic plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels and the effects of lifestyle characteristics known to influence vitamin D status on risk of breast cancer.

We studied women without a prior history of breast cancer referred to a diagnostic mammography examination (n = 2,465). Cases were women diagnosed with an incident breast cancer (n = 142). Controls were women not diagnosed with a breast cancer matched to cases on age, menopausal status, and time of year of blood sampling (n = 420). Characteristics of cases and controls were assessed by a self-administrated questionnaire. Blood samples were collected prior to the diagnostic mammography examination. Cases had lower plasma 25OHD levels than controls.

Compared with the lowest tertile of 25OHD levels, risk of breast cancer was significantly reduced among women in the highest tertile (relative risk, 0.52; 95% confidence interval, 0.32-0.85). Risk estimates were similar in women with an estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer.

Use of vitamin D supplements, sunbathing frequency, and fish intake was associated with 25OHD levels, but did not affect the risk of breast cancer. Accordingly, risk of breast cancer was inversely associated with 25OHD levels. Randomized controlled trials are warranted in order to assess whether a causal relationship exists.