Epidemiological Evidences on Dietary Flavonoids and Breast Cancer Risk: A Narrative Review

Document Type : Systematic Review and Meta-analysis


NGO Praeventio, Näituse 22-3, Tartu 50407, Estonia.


Epidemiological studies on associations between intake of flavonoids and breast cancer risk are highly needed to assess the actual effects of flavonoids in humans. Experimental investigations in vitro conditions cannot detect and model the real action of these phytochemicals due to the limitations to consider absorption and metabolic biotransformation as well as several complex interactions. Therefore, the data about association findings between intake of flavonoids and breast cancer risk are compiled and analyzed in the current review by evaluating both the results obtained using food composition databases as well as different biomarkers. Although several case-control studies demonstrate some reduction in breast cancer risk related to high consumption of flavones and flavonols, large-scale prospective cohort studies with follow-up times of many years do not confirm these findings. Intake of isoflavones can be associated with a decrease in breast tumorigenesis only in Asian countries where the consumption of soy foods is high but not among Western women with significantly lower ingestion amounts, suggesting the presence of so-called threshold level of effect. Besides doses, the timing of exposure to isoflavones seems also to be a significant factor as childhood and prepubertal age can be critical periods. Although women may need to consume high amounts of isoflavones typical to Asian diets to gain beneficial effects and protection against mammary carcinogenesis, it is still too early to give any specific recommendations to prevent breast tumors by diet rich in certain flavonoids.


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