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

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 Aggressive Breast Cancer

Study Shows Increased Risk for Aggressive Breast Cancer in Women With Low Vitamin D Levels
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 29, 2011 -- Women with low vitamin D levels may have an increased risk for the most aggressive breast cancers, new research suggests.

Several earlier studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk. But the new study is among the first to examine vitamin D insufficiency and poor prognosis.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center examined vitamin D levels in 155 breast cancer patients in the months before or after they had surgery to treat their disease.

They found suboptimal vitamin D levels to be highly predictive of the presence of biological markers associated with more aggressive tumors.

Triple Negative Tumors

Women in the study with triple-negative tumors, which do not respond to hormone treatments, were almost three times more likely to have suboptimal vitamin D levels as women with other breast cancers.

Triple-negative tumors are difficult to treat and they tend to have a worse prognosis than other breast cancers.

“We consistently saw lower vitamin D levels in breast cancer patients with poor prognostic markers,” study researcher Luke Peppone, PhD, tells WebMD.

The study participants had surgery for breast cancer between January 2009 and September 2010. Based on testing conducted within a year before or after surgery, the patients were considered to have either optimal (32 ng/mL or greater) or suboptimal (less than 32 ng/mL) vitamin D levels.

All patients also had a relatively new test designed to predict their risk of recurrence based on the presence of genes that have been identified with breast cancer.

The researchers reported a strong correlation between decreasing vitamin D levels and increasing scores on the predictive test.

African-American women and premenopausal women were more likely to have suboptimal vitamin D levels than older, white women.

The study is published online in the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

Second Opinion

While the research does not prove that low vitamin D levels influence outcomes in women who develop breast cancers, Peppone says more study is certainly warranted.

American Cancer Society Deputy Chief Medical Officer Len Lichtenfeld, MD, agrees.

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