Low plasma coenzyme Q(10) levels and breast cancer risk in Chinese women

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Jun;20(6):1124-30. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-1261. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


Background: Low circulating levels of coenzyme Q(10) (CoQ(10)) have been associated with increased cancer incidence and poor prognosis for a number of cancer types, while a recent prospective study observed a positive association for CoQ(10) with breast cancer risk.

Methods: We prospectively examined the association of plasma CoQ(10) with breast cancer risk in a nested case-control study of Chinese women within the Shanghai Women's Health Study (SWHS). Prediagnostic plasma samples were obtained from 340 cases and 653 age-matched controls and analyzed for total CoQ(10).

Results: A borderline significant inverse association for breast cancer incidence with plasma CoQ(10) level was observed by a conditional logistic regression model adjusted for age and age at first live birth, which became significant after elimination of cases diagnosed within 1 year of blood draw (P(trend) = 0.03). This association was independent of menopausal status. Plasma CoQ(10) levels were also observed to be significantly associated with circulating γ-tocopherol (r = 0.50; P < 0.0001) and α-tocopherol (r = 0.38; P < 0.0001) levels.

Conclusions: Circulating levels of CoQ(10) were generally low in this population and the observed association with breast cancer risk may be limited to those women with exceptionally low values.

Impact: This study reports an inverse relationship between circulating CoQ(10) and breast cancer risk, while the only other prospective study of CoQ(10) and breast cancer to date found a positive association. Lower levels of CoQ(10) in the SWHS population suggest that the 2 studies may not be contradictory and indicate a possible nonlinear (U-shaped) association of CoQ(10) with risk.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian People
  • Breast / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ubiquinone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ubiquinone / blood
  • Ubiquinone / deficiency
  • alpha-Tocopherol / blood


  • Ubiquinone
  • coenzyme Q10
  • alpha-Tocopherol