Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp 123–132 | Cite as

Dietary animal-derived iron and fat intake and breast cancer risk in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study

  • Asha R. KallianpurEmail author
  • Sang-Ah Lee
  • Yu-Tang Gao
  • Wei Lu
  • Ying Zheng
  • Zhi-Xian Ruan
  • Qi Dai
  • Kai Gu
  • Xiao-Ou Shu
  • Wei Zheng



Dietary fats and other constituents have been studied extensively in relation to breast cancer risk. Iron, an essential micronutrient with pro-oxidant properties, has received little attention, and specific fats may augment its toxicity. We investigated the effects of iron and fats from various food sources on the risk of breast cancer.


Participants in a population-based case–control study, 3,452 breast cancer cases, and 3,474 age-frequency-matched controls, completed in-person interviews, including a detailed food-frequency questionnaire. Plant- and animal-derived iron and fat intakes were derived from dietary intake data and food composition tables. Unconditional logistic regression models were used to study the independent and interactive effects of different forms of iron and fats on breast cancer risk.


Animal-derived (largely heme) iron intake was positively associated with breast cancer risk (P trend < 0.01; OR = 1.49 in the highest vs. lowest quartile, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.25–1.78) after adjustment for known risk factors, antioxidant vitamin and isoflavone intake, and vitamin supplement use. The effect of animal-derived iron was similar in pre- and postmenopausal women. Intake of animal-derived fats was also associated with increased risk (adjusted OR = 1.34, 95% CI 1.14–1.58), particularly after menopause. A significant interaction between iron and fat from animal sources was observed (P < 0.01).


A high intake of animal-derived (heme) iron may be associated with an increased risk of primary breast cancer in Chinese women, and saturated and mono-unsaturated fats that are also derived from animal sources may augment this effect. Combined reductions in animal-derived iron and fat consumption have the potential to reduce breast cancer risk.


Breast cancer risk Animal-derived iron Heme Animal fat Dietary intake Micronutrient Interaction Pro-oxidant Case–control study 



We gratefully acknowledge the patients and research staff who participated in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study. We also thank Dr. Hui Cai for his analytical support. This work was supported by the Office of Research in Women’s Health via a National Institutes of Health Mentored Career Development (BIRCWH) Award to Dr. Kallianpur (5K12HD04348-04) and by USPHS Grant R01CA64277 (Dr. Zheng).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Asha R. Kallianpur
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sang-Ah Lee
    • 2
  • Yu-Tang Gao
    • 3
  • Wei Lu
    • 4
  • Ying Zheng
    • 4
  • Zhi-Xian Ruan
    • 3
  • Qi Dai
    • 2
  • Kai Gu
    • 4
  • Xiao-Ou Shu
    • 2
  • Wei Zheng
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of General Internal Medicine and Public Health, Center for Health Services Research, TN Valley Health Systems VA Medical Center and Nashville VA GRECCVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt University School of MedicineNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineShanghai Cancer InstituteShanghaiP.R. China
  4. 4.Shanghai Institute of Preventive MedicineShanghaiP.R. China

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