Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 132, Issue 3, pp 1157–1162 | Cite as

A dietary pattern derived to correlate with estrogens and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer

  • Teresa T. Fung
  • Matthias B. Schulze
  • Frank B. Hu
  • Susan E. Hankinson
  • Michelle D. Holmes


Circulating estrogens are an established risk factor for breast cancer and some data suggest that diet may influence estrogen levels. Therefore, using a subsample (n = 550) of women from a large cohort, we applied reduced rank regression to identify a dietary pattern that was correlated with estradiol and estrone sulfate. We then adapted the pattern to be used with the full cohort (n = 67,802) and prospectively assessed its association with postmenopausal breast cancer. The estrogen food pattern, characterized by higher intakes of red meat, legumes, and pizza, but lower intakes of coffee and whole grains, was modestly but significantly correlated with estradiol (r = 0.14) and estrone sulfate (r = 0.20). During 22 years of follow-up, we ascertained 4,596 incident breast cancer, with 2,938 estrogen receptor-positive tumors and 689 estrogen receptor-negative tumors. However, after adjusting for potential confounders, we did not observe any association with overall estrogen receptor-positive or estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. In conclusion, diet pattern appeared to only have modest association with estrogens, and was not associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Although these results were null, it should be repeated in other populations as differences in food intake may yield a dietary pattern with stronger association with estrogens.


Diet Reduced rank regression Estrogen Breast cancer 



We would like to thank the participants and staff of the Nurses’ Health Study, for their valuable contributions, as well as the following state cancer registries for their help: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WY. This work was funded by National Institutes of Health grants CA87969, HL60712, CA95589, and 1U54CA155626-01.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa T. Fung
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matthias B. Schulze
    • 3
  • Frank B. Hu
    • 2
    • 4
  • Susan E. Hankinson
    • 4
    • 5
  • Michelle D. Holmes
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of NutritionSimmons CollegeBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of NutritionHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Molecular EpidemiologyGerman Institute of NutritionNuthetalGermany
  4. 4.Channing Laboratory, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.School of Public Health and Health SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts at AmherstAmherstUSA

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