Folate intake, alcohol use, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):895-904. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.4.895.


Background: Several epidemiologic studies suggest that higher folate intakes are associated with lower breast cancer risk, particularly in women with moderate alcohol consumption.

Objective: We investigated the association between dietary folate, alcohol consumption, and postmenopausal breast cancer in women from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial cohort.

Design: Dietary data were collected at study enrollment between 1993 and 2001. Folate content was assigned on the basis of prefortification (ie, pre-1998) databases. Of the 25 400 women participants with a baseline age of 55-74 y and with complete dietary and multivitamin information, 691 developed breast cancer between September 1993 and May 2003. We used Cox proportional hazard models with age as the underlying time metric to generate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs.

Results: The adjusted HRs were 1.19 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.41; P for trend = 0.04) for women reporting supplemental folic acid intake >/=400 mug/d compared with subjects reporting no supplemental intake. Comparison of the highest with the lowest quintile gave adjusted HRs of 1.04 (95% CI: 0.83, 1.31; P for trend = 0.56) and 1.32 (95% CI: 1.04, 1.68; P for trend = 0.03) for food and total folate intake, respectively. Alcohol consumption was positively associated with breast cancer risk (highest compared with lowest quintile: HR = 1.37; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.76; P for trend = 0.02); the risk was greatest in women with lower total folate intake.

Conclusions: Our results do not support the hypothesis that high folate intake reduces breast cancer risk; instead, they suggest that a high intake, generally attributable to supplemental folic acid, may increase the risk in postmenopausal women. However, our results confirm previous studies showing positive associations between moderate alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Postmenopause*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Folic Acid