Background: The scientific debate on the role of dietary phytoestrogens for prevention of breast cancer is still ongoing. We previously reported an inverse association between dietary phytoestrogen intake and premenopausal breast cancer risk and now examine the relationship with plasma phytoestrogen concentrations.
Methods: We measured enterolactone (mammalian lignan) and genistein (isoflavone) concentrations in plasma samples of 220 premenopausal cases and 237 age-matched controls from a population-based case-control study in Germany.
Results: Median plasma enterolactone concentrations in cases and controls were 6.3 and 9.7 nmol/l, respectively, and median genistein concentrations were 4.5 and 3.7 nmol/l, respectively. Premenopausal breast cancer risk decreased with increasing plasma enterolactone concentrations. Adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) were 0.42 (0.20-0.90) and 0.38 (0.17-0.85) (P for trend 0.007) for women in the third and fourth quartile of plasma enterolactone compared to those in the lowest quartile. There was no significant association between plasma genistein concentration and premenopausal breast cancer risk.
Conclusion: Using biomarkers of phytoestrogen intake, we confirmed the strong inverse association between enterolactone and premenopausal breast cancer risk as found with dietary intake estimates. This result gives support to the potential role of mammalian lignans for breast cancer prevention among premenopausal women in Western populations.