Background: Flavonoids inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells in vitro. In a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial, the Polyp Prevention Trial, a higher intake of one subclass, flavonols, was statistically significantly associated with a reduced risk of recurrent advanced adenoma. Most previous prospective studies on colorectal cancer evaluated only a limited number of flavonoid subclasses and intake ranges, yielding inconsistent results.
Objective: In this study, we examined whether higher habitual dietary intakes of flavonoid subclasses (flavonols, flavones, flavanones, flavan-3-ols, and anthocyanins) were associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Design: Using data from validated food-frequency questionnaires administered every 4 y and an updated flavonoid food composition database, we calculated flavonoid intakes for 42,478 male participants from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and for 76,364 female participants from the Nurses' Health Study.
Results: During up to 26 y of follow-up, 2519 colorectal cancer cases (1061 in men, 1458 in women) were documented. Intakes of flavonoid subclasses were not associated with risk of colorectal cancer in either cohort. Pooled multivariable adjusted RRs (95% CIs) comparing the highest with the lowest quintiles were 1.04 (0.91, 1.18) for flavonols, 1.01 (0.89, 1.15) for flavones, 0.96 (0.84, 1.10) for flavanones, 1.07 (0.95, 1.21) for flavan-3-ols, and 0.98 (0.81, 1.19) for anthocyanins (all P values for heterogeneity by sex >0.19). In subsite analyses, flavonoid intake was also not associated with colon or rectal cancer risk.
Conclusion: Our findings do not support the hypothesis that a higher habitual intake of any flavonoid subclass decreases the risk of colorectal cancer.
Keywords: anthocyanins; colorectal cancer; flavan-3-ols; flavanones; flavones; flavonoids; flavonols.