Epidemiological studies indicate that vitamin D exerts a protective effect on the development of various solid cancers. However, concerns have been raised regarding the potential deleterious role of high vitamin D levels in the development of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). This study investigated genetic variation in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) in relation to its expression and risk of Barrett esophagus (BE) and EAC. VDR gene regulation was investigated by immunohistochemistry, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and gel shift assays. Fifteen haplotype tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the VDR gene were analyzed in 858 patients with reflux esophagitis (RE), BE or EAC and 202 healthy controls. VDR mRNA expression was higher in BE compared with squamous epithelium. VDR protein was located in the nucleus in BE. An rs1989969T/rs2238135G haplotype was identified in the 5' regulatory region of the VDR gene. It was associated with an approximately two-fold reduced risk of RE, BE and EAC. Analysis of a replication cohort was done for BE that confirmed this. The rs1989969T allele causes a GATA-1 transcription factor binding site to appear. The signaling of GATA-1, which is regarded as a negative transcriptional regulator, could explain the findings for rs1989969. The rs2238135G allele was associated with a significantly reduced VDR expression in BE; for the rs1989969T allele, a trend in reduced VDR expression was observed. We identified a VDR haplotype associated with reduced esophageal VDR expression and a reduced incidence of RE, BE and EAC. This VDR haplotype could be useful in identifying individuals who benefit most from vitamin D chemoprevention.