The plasma level of retinol, vitamins A, C and α-tocopherol could reduce breast cancer risk? A meta-analysis and meta-regression

  • Fulan Hu
  • Zhiwei Wu
  • Guangxiao Li
  • Chong Teng
  • Yupeng Liu
  • Fan Wang
  • Yashuang Zhao
  • Da Pang
Original Article - Cancer Research



Plasma antioxidants are supposed to be directly related to breast cancer risk. However, the results remain inconsistent. Herein, we carried this meta-analysis to comprehensively summarize the associations between plasma retinol, vitamins A, C and α-tocopherol and breast cancer risk.


We searched PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane Databases (through September 24, 2014) and the reference lists of the retrieved articles in English with sufficient information to estimate relative risk or odds ratio and the 95 % confidence intervals (CIs), or with mean serum/plasma level of vitamins and SD/SEM/p value in breast cancer and controls. Two reviewers independently extracted data using a standardized form, with any discrepancy adjudicated by the third reviewer.


Forty studies entered this meta-analysis. For the pooled OR, no significant association between plasma retinol and breast cancer was observed (p = 0.13). Significant association was observed between plasma α-tocopherol and breast cancer (pooled OR 0.42, 95 % CI 0.25, 0.72, p = 0.00) in the subgroup with the median lowest level of 5.74–9.16 μmol/L. For the weighted mean difference (WMD), the plasma α-tocopherol and vitamin C level between breast cancer and controls were significantly different [WMD = −0.93 μmol/L (95 % CI −1.26, −0.61, p = 0.00) and −2.51 μmol/L (95 % CI −4.00, −1.02, p = 0.00), respectively]. No significant association between plasma retinol and vitamin A and breast cancer was observed.


Severe α-tocopherol deficiency could increase breast cancer risk. The association between plasma vitamin C and breast cancer was only significant in case–control studies. There was no significant association between other vitamins and breast cancer risk.


Retinol Vitamin A Vitamin C α-Tocopherol Breast cancer Meta-analysis 



Thanks for the grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81172743).

Conflict of interest

All the authors declare that we have no potential conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 341 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOC 46 kb)
432_2014_1852_MOESM3_ESM.doc (596 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOC 596 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology, Public Health CollegeHarbin Medical UniversityHarbinPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Medical OncologyThe Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical UniversityHarbinPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Breast SurgeryThe Third Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical UniversityHarbinPeople’s Republic of China

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