Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Low Vitamin D Linked to Breast Cancer

African-American Women With Low Vitamin D Have Greater Risk of Aggressive Breast Cancer
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 4, 2010 -- African-American woman have higher rates of vitamin D deficiency associated with aggressive breast cancer than white women, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina studied 107 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years, including 60 African-Americans. Sixty percent of African-American women studied had low vitamin D levels, compared to 15% of white women.

“We know that darker skin pigmentation acts somewhat as a block to producing vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which is the primary source of vitamin D in most people,” study author Susan Steck, PhD, MPH, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina, says in a news release.

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Breast Cancer

All participants donated a blood sample, and vitamin D concentrations were measured.

The mean serum concentration of vitamin D was 29.8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in white women and 19.3 ng/ml in African-American women, researchers say in a news release.

Vitamin D deficiency was defined as serum concentration of less than 20 ng/mL. Aggressive breast cancer was eight times more likely among patients with vitamin D deficiency.

More Research Needed on Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency

The study, Steck says, provides a foundation for possible preventive strategies, but she adds that more research is needed to confirm findings.

All participants were between 33 and 84 years old.

The study “corroborates other research showing racial differences in vitamin D status and provides further support for a protective role of vitamin D in breast cancer,” Steck says in an abstract of the study, presented in Miami at the Third American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities. “The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency was high, suggesting the need for monitoring of vitamin D levels among breast cancer patients.”

Vitamin D levels are affected by sun exposure, dietary intake, supplements, skin tone, age, and body mass index.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow