Dietary phytoestrogen intake and premenopausal breast cancer risk in a German case-control study

Int J Cancer. 2004 Jun 10;110(2):284-90. doi: 10.1002/ijc.20119.


A diet high in isoflavonoids (soy) is associated with lower breast cancer risk in Asian populations. Due to the low soy intake, dietary lignans may be the more important phytoestrogen class in Western populations. We used a population-based case-control study of breast cancer by age 50 in southern Germany to evaluate the association between dietary intake of different phytoestrogens and premenopausal breast cancer risk. Dietary information was collected from 278 premenopausal cases and 666 age-matched controls, using a validated FFQ. Using multivariate logistic regression, the highest vs. lowest intake quartiles of daidzein and genistein yielded significantly reduced ORs (95% CI) for breast cancer risk of 0.62 (0.40-0.95) and 0.47 (0.29-0.74), respectively. The protective effects of daidzein and genistein were found only for hormone receptor-positive tumors. High intake of other isoflavonoids, e.g., formononetin and biochanin A, as well as the sum of isoflavonoids were not associated with a decrease in risk. Breast cancer risk significantly decreased with a high intake of the plant lignan matairesinol (OR = 0.58, 95% CI 0.37-0.94) but not secoisolariciresinol or the sum of plant lignans. However, both estimated mammalian lignans, enterodiol and enterolactone, were inversely associated with breast cancer risk, with ORs (95% CI) of 0.61 (0.39-0.98) and 0.57 (0.35-0.92), respectively. No effect was found for total phytoestrogen intake. Our results suggest an important role of dietary intake of daidzein and genistein, despite low levels, as well as of matairesinol and mammalian lignans to reduce premenopausal breast cancer risk in this study population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Genistein / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage*
  • Lignans / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Premenopause
  • Risk


  • Isoflavones
  • Lignans
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations
  • daidzein
  • Genistein