Background: The development of endometrial cancer is largely related to prolonged exposure to unopposed estrogens. Phytoestrogens (i.e., weak estrogens found in plant foods) may have antiestrogenic effects. We evaluated the associations between dietary intake of seven specific compounds representing three classes of phytoestrogens (isoflavones, coumestans, and lignans) and the risk of endometrial cancer.
Methods: In a case-control study from the greater San Francisco Bay Area, we collected dietary information from 500 African American, Latina, and white women aged 35-79 years who were diagnosed with endometrial cancer between 1996 and 1999 and from 470 age- and ethnicity-matched control women identified through random-digit dialing. Unconditional logistic regression analyses were used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Results: Isoflavone (OR = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.37 to 0.93 for the highest versus lowest quartile of exposure) and lignan (OR = 0.68, 95% CI = 0.44 to 1.1) consumptions were inversely related to the risk of endometrial cancer. These associations were slightly stronger in postmenopausal women (OR = 0.44, 95% CI = 0.26 to 0.77 and OR = 0.57, 95% CI = 0.34 to 0.97 for isoflavones and lignans, respectively). Obese postmenopausal women consuming relatively low amounts of phytoestrogens had the highest risk of endometrial cancer (OR = 6.9, 95% CI = 3.3 to 14.5 compared with non-obese postmenopausal women consuming relatively high amounts of isoflavones); however, the interaction between obesity and phytoestrogen intake was not statistically significant.
Conclusion: Some phytoestrogenic compounds, at the levels consumed in the typical American-style diet, are associated with reduced risk of endometrial cancer.