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Study suggests Black, Hispanic women with low vitamin D more likely to develop breast cancer


Among women who identified as Black/African American or Hispanic/Latina, those with low blood levels of vitamin D were more likely to develop breast cancer than those with adequate levels. In the study published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the link between low vitamin D and breast cancer was particularly evident among Hispanic/Latina women.  

Black/African American or Hispanic/Latina have lower average vitamin D levels than non-Hispanic white women. Although research suggests that vitamin D may protect against breast cancer, few studies have considered the role of race/ethnicity in this link. 

To investigate, Katie O’Brien, PhD, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and her colleagues collected blood samples from 415 women (290 Black/African American, 125 non-Black Hispanic/Latina) who later developed breast cancer, as well as from 1,447 women (1,010 Black/African American, 437 Hispanic/Latina) who did not develop breast cancer. 

Over an average follow-up of 9.2 years, women with sufficient vitamin D levels had a 21% lower breast cancer rate than women with vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/mL). The link was strongest among Hispanic/Latina women, who had a 48% lower rate if they had sufficient vitamin D levels. The link was weaker among Black/African American women, who had an 11% lower rate if they had sufficient vitamin D. 

“Together with prior studies on this topic, this article suggests that vitamin D may be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer, including among women who self-identify as Black, African-American, Hispanic, or Latina,” said Dr. O’Brien. “Because women who identify as members of these groups have lower vitamin D levels, on average, than non-Hispanic white women, they could potentially receive enhanced health benefits from interventions promoting vitamin D intake. However, questions remain about whether these associations are truly causal and, if so, what levels of vitamin D are most beneficial.” 

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Full Citation: 

“Vitamin D concentrations and breast cancer incidence among Black/African American and non-Black Hispanic/Latina Women.” Katie O’Brien, Quaker E. Harmon, Chandra L. Jackson, Mary V. Diaz-Santana, Jack A. Taylor, Clarice R. Weinberg, and Dale P. Sandler. CANCER; Published Online: April 25, 2022 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.34198). 

URL Upon Publication: 

Author Contact: NIH Communications and Public Liaison Staff: Robin Arnette, Christine Flowers, or Robin Macker:

About the Journal 
CANCER is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society integrating scientific information from worldwide sources for all oncologic specialties. The objective of CANCER is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of information among oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer. CANCER is published on behalf of the American Cancer Society by Wiley and can be accessed online. 

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About Wiley 

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