PURPOSE: To evaluate the association between radiation pneumonitis and dose-volume histogram parameters and to provide practical guidelines to prevent radiation pneumonitis following radiotherapy administered for breast cancer including internal mammary lymph nodes. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty patients with early breast cancer who underwent a partial mastectomy were involved in this study. The entire breast, supraclavicular lymph nodes, and internal mammary lymph nodes were irradiated with a dose of 50.4 Gy in 28 fractions. Radiation pneumonitis was assessed by both radiological pulmonary change (RPC) and by evaluation of symptomatic radiation pneumonitis. Dose-volume histogram parameters were compared between patients with grade <2 RPC and those with grade > or =2 RPC. The parameters were the mean lung dose, V10 (percent lung volume receiving equal to and more than 10 Gy), V20, V30, V40, and normal tissue complication probability (NTCP). RESULTS: Of the 20 patients, 9 (45%) developed grade 2 RPC and 11 (55%) did not develop RPC (grade 0). Only one patient developed grade 1 symptomatic radiation pneumonitis. Univariate analysis showed that among the dose-volume histogram parameters, NTCP was significantly different between the two RPC grade groups (p<0.05). Fisher's exact test indicated that an NTCP value of 45% was appropriate as an RPC threshold level. CONCLUSION: This study shows that NTCP can be used as a predictor of RPC after radiotherapy of the internal mammary lymph nodes in breast cancer. Clinically, it indicates that an RPC is likely to develop when the NTCP is greater than 45%.