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Soy-Based Infant Formula Feeding and Ultrasound-Detected Uterine Fibroids among Young African-American Women with No Prior Clinical Diagnosis of Fibroids.

Upson K, et al. Environ Health Perspect. 2016.


BACKGROUND: Early-life soy phytoestrogen exposure has been shown in Eker rats to increase uterine fibroid incidence in adulthood. Two large epidemiologic cohorts have provided some support for increased fibroid risk with infant soy formula feeding in women, but both cohorts relied on self-report of clinically diagnosed fibroids.

OBJECTIVE: We evaluated the relationship between infant soy formula feeding and ultrasound-detected fibroids.

METHODS: The Study of Environment, Lifestyle & Fibroids (SELF) is an ongoing cohort study of 1,696 African-American women ages 23-34 years with baseline ultrasound screening to detect and measure fibroids ≥ 0.5 cm in diameter. Questionnaire data on soy formula feeding during infancy was ascertained for 1,553 participants (89% based on mother's report), of whom 345 were found to have fibroids. We estimated the association between soy formula feeding and fibroid prevalence and tumor number using log-binomial regression. Among those with fibroids, we compared fibroid size between soy formula-exposed and unexposed women using multivariable linear regression.

RESULTS: We did not observe an association between soy formula feeding and fibroid prevalence [adjusted prevalence ratio (aPR) 0.9, 95% CI: 0.7, 1.3]. Nor were exposed women with fibroids more likely to have ≥ 2 tumors than unexposed women with fibroids (aPR 1.0, 95% CI: 0.7, 1.6). However, exposed women with fibroids had significantly larger fibroids than unexposed women with fibroids. On average, soy formula feeding was associated with a 32% increase in the diameter of the largest fibroid (95% CI: 6%, 65%) and a 127% increase in total tumor volume (95% CI: 12%, 358%).

CONCLUSIONS: Our observation that women fed soy formula as infants have larger fibroids than unexposed women provides further support for persistent effects of early life phytoestrogen exposure on the uterus.

CITATION: Upson K, Harmon QE, Baird DD. 2016. Soy-based infant formula feeding and ultrasound-detected uterine fibroids among young African-American women with no prior clinical diagnosis of fibroids. Environ Health Perspect 124:769-775;


26565393 [Indexed for MEDLINE]



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