Open Access Research article

Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 is associated with decreased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in whites: a nested case–control study in the multiethnic cohort study

Yeonju Kim1, Adrian A Franke2, Yurii B Shvetsov1, Lynne R Wilkens1, Robert V Cooney3, Galina Lurie1, Gertraud Maskarinec1, Brenda Y Hernandez1, Loïc Le Marchand1, Brian E Henderson4, Laurence N Kolonel1 and Marc T Goodman156*

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Epidemiology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, 701 Ilalo Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

2 Cancer Biology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, 1236 Lauhala Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA

3 Department of Public Health Sciences & Epidemiology, University of Hawaii, 1960 East West Road, Biomed D104K, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

4 Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1450 Biggy Street, NRT 1517 J, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA

5 Cancer Prevention and Control, Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA

6 Community and Population Health Research Institute, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8700 Beverly Blvd, Room 1S37, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-29

Published: 17 January 2014



Higher sunlight exposure is correlated with lower incidence of breast cancer in ecological studies, but findings from prospective studies regarding the association of circulating levels of vitamin D with the risk of breast cancer have been null. The objective of this study was to examine the relation between plasma levels of vitamin D and the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.


We conducted a nested case–control study within the Multiethnic Cohort Study of five race/ethnic groups (white, African-American, Native Hawaiian, Japanese, and Latino) from Hawaii and Los Angeles between 2001 and 2006. Pre-diagnostic plasma levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D2 [25(OH)D2], 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 [25(OH)D3] and 25(OH)D (sum of 25(OH)D2 and 25(OH)D3) were examined among 707 postmenopausal breast cancer cases and matched controls.


Using conditional logistic regression models, 20 ng/mL increases of plasma 25(OH)D3 (odds ratio (OR) 0.28; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.14-0.56) and 25(OH)D (OR 0.43; 95% CI 0.23-0.80) were inversely associated with breast cancer risk among white women, but not among women in other race/ethnic groups. Using two-segmented, piecewise-linear logistic regression models, the change-points of the ORs, either for 25(OH)D3 or for 25(OH)D, were detected as 20 ng/mL among whites.


Circulating 25(OH)D3 and 25(OH)D were associated with a reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer among whites, but not in other ethnic groups, who reside in low latitude regions.

Breast cancer; 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3; 25-Hydroxyvitamin D2; Ethnic groups; Nested case–control study