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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Jan;17(1):33-42. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-0193.

Equol status modifies the association of soy intake and mammographic density in a sample of postmenopausal women.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Italian National Cancer Institute Regina Elena, Via Elio Chianesi 53, Rome, Italy. barbara.fuhrman@gmail.org


Only 30% to 50% of people produce the daidzein-metabolite equol after eating soy. We conducted a cross-sectional study of the associations between equol status, intake of soy foods, and mammographic density in a sample of postmenopausal women recruited at a radiology clinic near Buffalo, New York. Participants were 48 to 82 years old, had no history of cancer or breast reduction/augmentation, and no recent use of antibiotics or hormones. Percent density was measured by computer-assisted analysis of digitized images of craniocaudal films. Equol status was assessed using a soy-challenge protocol and usual soy intake by questionnaire. General linear models were used to assess independent and joint effects of equol status and intake of soy on multivariate adjusted percent density (covariates included age, body mass index, parity, age at first birth, and ever use of combined hormone therapy). Of 325 enrolled, 232 (71%) participants completed study assessments and are included in the present analysis. Mean percent density was 34% (+/-18%). Seventy-five (30%) participants were producers of equol. Forty-three (19%) participants reported regularly eating >1 soy food or supplement/wk. There were no significant independent associations of equol status or soy intake with percent density, but the interaction between these factors was significant (P < 0.01). Among equol producers, those with weekly soy intake had lower percent density (30.7% in weekly consumers of soy versus 38.9% in others; P = 0.08); among nonproducers, weekly soy intake was associated with higher percent density (37.5% in weekly soy consumers versus 30.7% in others; P = 0.03). Results suggest that equol producers and nonproducers may experience different effects of dietary soy on breast tissue.

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