Mammographic density, plasma vitamin D levels and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women

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Mammographic density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer, but the underlying biology for this association is unknown. Studies suggest that vitamin D may reduce breast cancer risk and dietary vitamin D intake has been associated with reduced breast density. We conducted a case–control study nested within the Nurses' Health Study cohort consisting of 463 and 497 postmenopausal cases and controls, respectively. We examined the association between mammographic density and plasma levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D]. We assessed whether plasma vitamin D metabolites modify the association between breast density and breast cancer. Percent mammographic density was measured from digitized film mammograms. Generalized linear models were used to determine mean percent breast density per quartile of vitamin D metabolite. Logistic regression models were used to calculate relative risks and confidence intervals. All models were adjusted for matching variables and potential confounders. We found no cross-sectional association between circulating levels of 25(OH)D or 1,25(OH)2D with mammographic density. Women in the highest tertile of mammographic density and lowest tertile of plasma 25(OH)D had 4 times greater risk of breast cancer than women with the lowest mammographic density and highest plasma 25(OH)D levels (RR = 3.8; 95% CI: 2.0–7.3). The overall interaction between mammographic density and plasma 25(OH)D was nonsignificant (p-het = 0.20). These results indicate that the association between mammographic density and breast cancer is independent of plasma vitamin D metabolites in postmenopausal women. Further research examining vitamin D, mammographic density and breast cancer risk is warranted.

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