Open Access Open Badges Brief communication

Mammographic density and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels

Katherine D Crew123*, Julie Campbell1, Diane Reynolds4, Loralee Fulton5, Julie D Flom2, Yuyan Liao2, Parisa Tehranifar23 and Mary Beth Terry23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

3 The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University, 161 Fort Washington Ave, 10-1072, New York, NY 10032, USA

4 School of Nursing, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, Brooklyn, NY, USA

5 Othmer Cancer Center, Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn, NY, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Nutrition & Metabolism 2014, 11:18  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-11-18

Published: 17 April 2014



Vitamin D, which influences cellular proliferation and breast tissue characteristics, has been inversely correlated with breast cancer risk. Dietary vitamin D intake has been associated with lower mammographic density (MD), a strong intermediate marker of breast cancer risk.


We examined the relationship between MD and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], an integrated measure of vitamin D status from dietary sources and sunlight exposure, in a multi-ethnic cohort of women undergoing screening mammography. We recruited women age 40–60 years without a history of breast cancer at the time of their routine screening mammogram, and conducted in-person interviews and collected blood specimens. We enrolled 195 women from 2007–2008, 120 gave blood, and 114 were evaluable, including 25% white, 41% African American, 18% African Caribbean, and 16% Hispanic. We digitized mammograms and calculated percent density, dense area, and non-dense area on cranial-caudal images. We measured serum 25(OH)D in batched, archived specimens. Median serum 25(OH)D was 22 ng/ml (range, 8–66 ng/ml). In univariable analysis, higher serum 25(OH)D was associated with white race, higher educational level, ever breast feeding, and blood draw during the summer. After adjusting for body mass index and other confounders, we found no association between serum 25(OH)D and different measures of MD. However, when stratified by season, 25(OH)D was inversely associated with dense area during July-December (p = 0.034).


Overall, our findings suggest that circulating vitamin D, a potentially modifiable breast cancer risk factor, is not associated with MD; the seasonal effects we observed need to be replicated in larger cohorts.

Vitamin D; 25-hydroxyvitamin D; Breast cancer; Mammographic density