Effect of flaxseed consumption on urinary levels of estrogen metabolites in postmenopausal women

Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(2):175-80. doi: 10.1080/01635580903305342.


Flaxseed is a rich source of dietary lignans. It has been hypothesized that lignans may decrease breast cancer risk through modulation of endogenous hormone levels. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of flaxseed supplementation on urinary levels of estrogen metabolites that may be involved in the development of breast cancer. Forty-three postmenopausal women participated in this 12-wk preintervention-postintervention study. Participants consumed 7.5 g/day of ground flaxseed for 6 wk, followed by 15 g/day for an additional 6 wk. The mean urinary level of 16alpha -hydroxyestrone (16alpha -OHE1) was higher at the end of 12 wk compared to baseline (change of 1.32 ug/day, P = 0.02). There was no significant change in 2-OHE1 excretion. The mean urinary level of the 2-OHE1/16alpha -OHE1 ratio was lower at the end of 12 wk compared to baseline (change of -1.1, P = 0.02). Mean urinary excretion of 2-methoxyestradiol was also lower at 12 wk than at baseline (P = 0.03). Based on the current paradigm of the effects of estrogen metabolism on breast cancer risk, the regimen of dietary flaxseed intake used in this study did not appear to favorably alter breast cancer risk through shifts in estrogen metabolism pathways in postmenopausal women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 2-Methoxyestradiol
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake
  • Estradiol / analogs & derivatives
  • Estradiol / urine
  • Estrogens / urine*
  • Female
  • Flax*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyestrones / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / urine*


  • Estrogens
  • Hydroxyestrones
  • 16-hydroxyestrone
  • Estradiol
  • 2-Methoxyestradiol
  • 2-hydroxyestrone