Dietary phytoestrogens and the risk of ovarian cancer in the women's lifestyle and health cohort study

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Feb;20(2):308-17. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0752. Epub 2010 Nov 23.


Background: Dietary intake of phytoestrogens has been inversely associated to hormone-dependent cancers, such as prostate and breast cancers. Few studies have investigated the association between ovarian cancer and intake of phytoestrogens. We evaluated the associations between intake of phytoestrogens (isoflavonoids/lignans/coumestrol) and fiber (vegetable/cereal) and risk of ovarian cancer.

Methods: In 1991-1992 a prospective population-based cohort study among Swedish women was conducted, including 47,140 women with complete dietary questionnaire data. During follow-up until December 2007, 163 women developed invasive (n = 117) and borderline (n = 46) ovarian cancers. The median follow-up time was 16 years and total person year was 747,178. Cox proportional hazards models were conducted to estimate multivariate risk ratios, 95% CI for associations with risk of ovarian cancer.

Results: We found no association between intake of phytoestrogens or fiber and overall ovarian cancer risk. In addition, we found no statistically significant association between intake of specific food items rich in phytoestrogens (berries, nuts, beans/soy, and crisp or whole-grain bread) and ovarian cancer risk overall. Fiber and coumestrol was inversely associated with borderline ovarian cancer, but not with invasive ovarian cancer.

Conclusions: We found no association between intake of phytoestrogens or fiber and overall ovarian cancer risk.

Impact: Phytoestrogens do not play a major etiologic role in ovarian cancer, at least among women in this Swedish cohort with low bean/soy intake. However, our results of a difference in the effect of fiber or coumestrol between invasive and borderline ovarian cancer need to be evaluated in larger studies.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diet therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Phytoestrogens / administration & dosage*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Sweden / epidemiology


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Phytoestrogens