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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and postmenopausal breast cancer survival: a prospective patient cohort study

Alina Vrieling1*, Rebecca Hein1, Sascha Abbas2, Andreas Schneeweiss3, Dieter Flesch-Janys4 and Jenny Chang-Claude1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Cancer Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center, Im Neuenheimer Feld 581, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

2 PMV Research Group at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Cologne, Herderstrasse 52-54, 50931 Cologne, Germany

3 Section Gynecological Oncology, National Center for Tumor Diseases, University Hospital Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 460, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

4 Department of Cancer Epidemiology/Clinical Cancer Registry, University Cancer Center Hamburg (UCCH) and Department of Medical Biometrics and Epidemiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany

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Breast Cancer Research 2011, 13:R74  doi:10.1186/bcr2920

Published: 26 July 2011

Abstract

Introduction

Vitamin D has been postulated to be involved in cancer prognosis. Thus far, only two studies reported on its association with recurrence and survival after breast cancer diagnosis yielding inconsistent results. Therefore, the aim of our study was to assess the effect of post-diagnostic serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations on overall survival and distant disease-free survival.

Methods

We conducted a prospective cohort study in Germany including 1,295 incident postmenopausal breast cancer patients aged 50-74 years. Patients were diagnosed between 2002 and 2005 and median follow-up was 5.8 years. Cox proportional hazards models were stratified by age at diagnosis and season of blood collection and adjusted for other prognostic factors. Fractional polynomials were used to assess the true dose-response relation for 25(OH)D.

Results

Lower concentrations of 25(OH)D were linearly associated with higher risk of death (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.08 per 10 nmol/L decrement; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.00 to 1.17) and significantly higher risk of distant recurrence (HR = 1.14 per 10 nmol/L decrement; 95%CI, 1.05 to 1.24). Compared with the highest tertile (≥ 55 nmol/L), patients within the lowest tertile (< 35 nmol/L) of 25(OH)D had a HR for overall survival of 1.55 (95%CI, 1.00 to 2.39) and a HR for distant disease-free survival of 2.09 (95%CI, 1.29 to 3.41). In addition, the association with overall survival was found to be statistically significant only for 25(OH)D levels of blood samples collected before start of chemotherapy but not for those of samples taken after start of chemotherapy (P for interaction = 0.06).

Conclusions

In conclusion, lower serum 25(OH)D concentrations may be associated with poorer overall survival and distant disease-free survival in postmenopausal breast cancer patients.