European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 1329–1337 | Cite as

Serum betaine but not choline is inversely associated with breast cancer risk: a case–control study in China

  • Yu-Feng Du
  • Fang-Yu Lin
  • Wei-Qing Long
  • Wei-Ping Luo
  • Bo Yan
  • Ming Xu
  • Xiong-Fei Mo
  • Cai-Xia ZhangEmail author
Original Contribution



Choline and betaine are important for DNA methylation and synthesis, and may affect tumor carcinogenesis. To our knowledge, no previous study has examined the association between serum choline and betaine and breast cancer risk. This study aimed to examine whether serum choline and betaine were inversely associated with breast cancer risk among Chinese women.


This hospital-based case–control study consecutively recruited 510 breast cancer cases and 518 frequency-matched (age and residence) controls, and blood samples were available for 500 cases and 500 controls. Serum choline and betaine were assayed by high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. Multiple unconditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95 % confidence intervals (CIs).


An inverse association with breast cancer risk was observed for serum betaine (fourth vs first quartile adjusted OR 0.68, 95 % CI 0.47–0.97) and for the ratio of serum betaine to choline (fourth vs first quartile adjusted OR 0.70, 95 % CI 0.48–1.00), but not for serum choline (fourth vs first quartile adjusted OR 0.80, 95 % CI 0.56–1.15). Serum betaine was inversely associated with breast cancer risk in subjects with below-median dietary folate intake (fourth vs first quartile adjusted OR 0.48, 95 % CI 0.30–0.77).


This study suggested that serum betaine but not choline was inversely associated with breast cancer risk. This result needed to be further confirmed by the prospective studies.


Serum choline Serum betaine Breast cancer risk Case–control study 



This study was supported by Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou, China (no. 201510010151), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 81102188). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the study participants.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu-Feng Du
    • 1
  • Fang-Yu Lin
    • 2
  • Wei-Qing Long
    • 3
  • Wei-Ping Luo
    • 1
  • Bo Yan
    • 1
  • Ming Xu
    • 1
  • Xiong-Fei Mo
    • 4
  • Cai-Xia Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology, School of Public HealthSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Nursing DepartmentThe First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Clinical LaboratoryThe First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.Department of Vascular SurgeryThe First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina

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