Dietary flavonoid intake and risk of cancer in postmenopausal women: The Iowa Women's Health Study

Gretchen J. Cutler, Jennifer A. Nettleton, Julie A. Ross, Lisa J. Harnack, David R. Jacobs, Carolyn G. Scrafford, Leila M. Barraj, Pamela J. Mink, Kim Robien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


Flavonoids, which are found in certain plant foods, are thought to lower cancer risk through their antioxidant, antiestrogenic and antiproliferative properties. We examined the association of intake of total flavonoids and 7 flavonoid subclasses with risk of lung, colorectal, breast, pancreatic and upper aerodigestive cancer among women in a large prospective cohort study. Study participants were 34,708 postmenopausal women in the Iowa Women's Health Study who completed a food frequency questionnaire and were followed for cancer occurrence from 1986 through 2004. Flavonoid intake was estimated from 3 databases developed by the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL). Hazard ratios (HR) for cancer risk were calculated across total flavonoid and flavonoid subclass intake categories. Interactions between smoking history and flavonoid intake were also examined. After multivariable adjustment, lung cancer incidence was inversely associated with intakes of flavanones (HR = 0.68; 95% CI: 0.53-0.86, all results highest vs. lowest quintile) and proanthocyanidins (HR = 0.75; 95% CI: 0.57-0.97). Among current and past smokers, those with intakes in the highest quintile for flavanones (HR = 0.66; 95% CI: 0.50-0.86), and proanthocyanidins (HR = 0.66; 95% CI; 0.49-0.89) had significantly lower lung cancer incidence than those in the lowest quintile. Similar associations were not seen in never smokers. Isoflavone intake was inversely associated with overall cancer incidence (HR = 0.93, 95% CI: 0.86-1.00). This study provides further support for a beneficial effect of flavonoid intake on lung cancer risk, especially among current and past smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-671
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008


  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Flavonoids
  • Lung cancer
  • Postmenopausal women


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