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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Jan;20(1):187-98. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-1039. Epub 2010 Dec 2.

Joint effects of dietary vitamin D and sun exposure on breast cancer risk: results from the French E3N cohort.

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Inserm, CESP Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, U1018, Nutrition, Hormones and Women's Health Team, F-94805, Villejuif, France.



Ecological studies have suggested that vitamin D production through ultraviolet (UV) solar irradiance could reduce breast cancer (BC) risk. Although studies restricted to dietary vitamin D intake have provided inconsistent results, little is known about the relationship between pre- and postmenopausal BC and combined intakes from diet, supplements, and sun exposure.


Cox proportional hazards regression models evaluated the association between vitamin D intakes, mean daily ultraviolet radiation dose (UVRd) at the place of residence and risk of BC among 67,721 women of the French E3N cohort. All analyses were stratified on menopausal status taking into account important confounders including calcium consumption.


During 10 years of follow-up, a total of 2,871 BC cases were diagnosed. Dietary and supplemental vitamin D intakes were not associated with BC risk; however, in regions with the highest UVRd, postmenopausal women with high dietary or supplemental vitamin D intake had a significantly lower BC risk as compared with women with the lowest vitamin D intake (HR = 0.68, 95% CI: 0.54-0.85, and HR = 0.57, 95% CI: 0.36-0.90, respectively).


Our results suggest that a threshold of vitamin D exposure from both sun and diet is required to prevent BC and this threshold is particularly difficult to reach in postmenopausal women at northern latitudes where quality of sunlight is too poor for adequate vitamin D production.


Prospective studies should further investigate associations between BC risk, vitamin D status and sunlight exposure.

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