Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Plant Estrogen May Cut Breast Cancer

Lignans -- Found in Tea, Plants -- May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk After Menopause
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 20, 2007 -- A diet rich in estrogen-like compounds found in flaxseed, tea, and many plants may help curb breast cancer after menopause.

That's according to a French study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study included about 58,000 postmenopausal French women who were followed for an average of more than seven years.

When the study began between 1993 and 1997, the women were in their early 50s, on average, and didn't have breast cancer. They completed surveys about their diet and lifestyle, including how often they consumed 208 foods and beverages.

Researchers included Francoise Clavel-Chapelon, PhD, of France's Institut National de le Sante et de la Recherche (INSERM), which is France's institute for biological, medical, and public health research.

Levels of Lignans

Using the completed dietary surveys, Clavel-Chapelon and colleagues calculated the women's daily intake of lignans, which are a type of plant estrogen found in many plants.

On average, the women consumed 1 milligram per day of lignans, with daily lignan intake ranging from 0 to 5 milligrams.

The women got their lignans from fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, and grain products including bread, breakfast cereals, rice, and pasta.

Flaxseed, which is particularly high in lignans, isn't part of the traditional French diet, but it may be becoming more common in French multigrain bread, the researchers note.

More Lignans, Less Breast Cancer

A total of 1,469 women in the study group were diagnosed with breast cancer during the follow-up period.

Women with the highest lignan intake were 17% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer during the study than those with the lowest intake.

Those findings take other breast cancer risk factors into account.

However, the study didn't track soy consumption. Soy contains isoflavones, which are plant estrogens that aren't lignans.

Lignans were only linked to a reduced risk of breast cancers that are sensitive to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

One More Reason to Eat Plants, Grains

The French study didn't directly test lignans against breast cancer, so the findings don't prove that lignans lower breast cancer risk.

But Clavel-Chapelon and colleagues say their findings support recommendations for women to eat diets consisting largely of fruits, vegetables, and grain products, which are all good sources of lignans.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Health Check
HEALTH CHECK
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
senior woman
Article
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW