Lignans are plant compounds metabolized in the mammalian gut to produce the phytoestrogens enterolactone and enterodiol. Because estrogens have been linked to breast cancer etiology, lignans could affect breast cancer risk through modulation of endogenous estrogen metabolism or competitive inhibition with estrogen receptors. We examined breast cancer risk and dietary lignan intake in a population-based case-control study of 1,122 women with primary, incident, histologically confirmed breast cancer and 2,036 controls frequency matched to cases on age and county of residence as part of the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) Study. Diet was assessed with a self-administered 104-item food frequency questionnaire and other relevant data were collected by detailed in-person interviews. Lignans were expressed as the sum of the dietary precursors secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated by unconditional logistic regression, adjusting for age, total energy and other breast cancer risk factors. Premenopausal women in the highest quartile of dietary lignan intake had reduced breast cancer risk (OR = 0.66; 95% CI = 0.44-0.98). No association was observed between lignan intakes and postmenopausal breast cancer. Our results suggest that dietary lignans may be important in the etiology of breast cancer, particularly among premenopausal women.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.