Phytoestrogens and lung cancer risk: A nested case-control study in never-smoking Chinese women

Mengjie Li, Qiuyin Cai, Yu Tang Gao, Adrian A. Franke, Xianglan Zhang, Yingya Zhao, Wanqing Wen, Qing Lan, Nathaniel Rothman, Yu Shyr, Xiao Ou Shu, Wei Zheng, Gong Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Since several lines of evidence suggest that estrogens may be involved in lung carcinogenesis, it has been hypothesized that intake of phytoestrogens, similar in molecular structure to mammalian estrogens, may be associated with lung cancer development. Objective: The aim was to prospectively evaluate the association between phytoestrogen exposure and lung cancer risk in never-smoking women. Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study within a population-based prospective cohort study of women. A total of 478 incident lung cancer cases and their individually matched controls were identified among never-smoking women after a mean follow-up of 15.6 years. Habitual intake of and internal exposure to phytoestrogens were assessed by repeated dietary surveys and urinary biomarkers, respectively. ORs and 95% CIs for lung cancer were estimated in conditional logistic regression models. Results: After adjustment for potential confounders, a moderate intake of dietary isoflavones was inversely associated with lung cancer risk in never-smoking women, with the OR for the second quartile vs. the lowest quartile of intake being 0.52 (95% CI: 0.35, 0.76). Further increasing intake did not convey additional benefits, with ORs (95% CI) for the third and fourth quartiles of 0.53 (0.36, 0.78) and 0.47 (0.31, 0.72), respectively (P-overall < 0.001 and P-nonlinearity = 0.006). A similar association was seen when exposure to isoflavones was assessed by urinary biomarkers. ORs (95% CI) for the second, third, and fourth quartiles compared with the lowest quartile of urinary isoflavone excretion were 0.57 (0.39, 0.83), 0.64 (0.44, 0.92), and 0.60 (0.41, 0.86), respectively. The inverse association reached a plateau beyond the second quartile, with P-overall = 0.04 and P-nonlinearity = 0.15. Urinary excretion of gut-microbiota-derived metabolites of lignans was not related to lung cancer risk. Conclusions: This study suggests that moderately increasing intake of isoflavone-rich foods is associated with lower risk of lung cancer in never-smoking women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-651
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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