Tocotrienol levels in adipose tissue of benign and malignant breast lumps in patients in Malaysia

Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(3):498-504.


Data on dietary exposure to vitamin E by plasma or adipose tissue concentrations of alpha-tocopherol (alpha-T) in observational studies have failed to provide consistent support for the idea that alpha-T provides women with any protection from breast cancer. In contrast, studies indicate that alpha, gamma, and delta-tocotrienols but not alpha-T have potent anti-proliferative effects in human breast cancer cells. Our aim was to investigate whether there was a difference in tocopherol and tocotrienol concentrations in malignant and benign adipose tissue, in a Malaysian population consuming predominantly a palm oil diet. The study was undertaken using fatty acid levels in breast adipose tissue as a biomarker of qualitative dietary intake of fatty acids. The major fatty acids in breast adipose tissue of patients (benign and malignant) were oleic acid (45-46%), palmitic (28-29%) and linoleic (11-12%). No differences were evident in the fatty acid composition of the two groups. There was a significant difference (p=0.006) in the total tocotrienol levels between malignant (13.7 +/- 6.0 microg/g) and benign (20+/-6.0 microg/g) adipose tissue samples. However, no significant differences were seen in the total tocopherol levels (p=0.42) in the two groups. The study reveals that dietary intake influences adipose tissue fatty acid levels and that adipose tissue is a dynamic reservoir of fat soluble nutrients. The higher adipose tissue concentrations of tocotrienols in benign patients provide support for the idea that tocotrienols may provide protection against breast cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry*
  • Antioxidants / analysis*
  • Breast / chemistry
  • Breast Diseases / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malaysia
  • Nutritional Status
  • Palm Oil
  • Plant Oils
  • Tocopherols / analysis*
  • Tocotrienols / analysis*
  • Vitamin E / analysis


  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Plant Oils
  • Tocotrienols
  • Vitamin E
  • Palm Oil
  • Tocopherols