Dietary flavonoids and the risk of colorectal cancer

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Apr;16(4):684-93. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-06-0785.


In vitro and in vivo laboratory data point to chemoprotective effects of flavonoids on colorectal cancer. However, there has been limited epidemiologic research on the dietary intake of flavonoids and risk of colorectal cancer. Recent expansions of dietary databases to include flavonoid data now make such studies feasible. Association between the six main classes of flavonoids and the risk of colorectal cancer was examined using data from a national prospective case-control study in Scotland, including 1,456 incident cases and 1,456 population-based controls matched on age, sex, and residence area. Dietary, including flavonoid data, were obtained from a validated, self-administered food frequency questionnaire. Risk of colorectal cancer was estimated using conditional logistic regression models in the whole sample and stratified by sex, smoking status, and cancer site and adjusted for established and putative risk factors. After energy adjustment, reductions in colorectal cancer risk associated with the highest quartiles of intake (versus the lowest quartile) were 27% for flavonols [odds ratio (OR), 0.73; P(trend) = 0.012], 32% for quercetin (OR, 0.68; P(trend) = 0.001), 32% for catechin (OR, 0.68; P(trend) < 0.0005); 26% for epicatechin (OR, 0.74; P(trend) = 0.019), and 22% for procyanidins (OR, 0.78; P(trend) = 0.031). The significant dose-dependent reductions in colorectal cancer risk that were associated with increased consumption of flavonols, quercetin, catechin, and epicatechin remained robust after controlling for overall fruit and vegetable consumption or for other flavonoid intake. The risk reductions were greater among nonsmokers, but no interaction beyond a multiplicative effect was present. Sex-specific or cancer-type differences were not observed. No risk reductions were associated with intake of flavones (P(trend) = 0.64), flavonones (P(trend) = 0.22), and phytoestrogens (P(trend) = 0.26). This was the first of several a priori hypotheses to be tested in this large study and showed strong and linear inverse associations of flavonoids with colorectal cancer risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Flavonoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Flavonoids