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Int J Cancer. 2001 Feb 15;91(4):563-7.

Dietary antioxidant vitamins, retinol, and breast cancer incidence in a cohort of Swedish women.

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Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 221 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Dietary antioxidant vitamins and retinol have been proposed to be protective against breast cancer on the basis of their ability to reduce oxidative DNA damage and their role in cell differentiation. Epidemiologic studies have not been convincing in supporting this hypothesis, but women with high exposure to free radicals and oxidative processes have not been specifically considered. We explored these issues in the Swedish Mammography Screening Cohort, a large population-based prospective cohort study in Sweden that comprised 59,036 women, 40-76 years of age, who were free of cancer at baseline and who had answered a validated 67-item food frequency questionnaire. During 508,267 person-years of follow-up, 1,271 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed. Cox proportional hazards models were used to obtain hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). There was no overall association between intake of ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, retinol or vitamin E and breast cancer incidence. High intake of ascorbic acid was inversely related to breast cancer incidence among overweight women (HR=0.61; 95% CI 0.45-0.82, for highest quintile of intake among women with body mass index>25 kg/m(2)) and women with high consumption of linoleic acid (HR=0.72; 95% CI 0.52-1.02, for highest quintile of ascorbic acid intake and average consumption of more than 6 grams of linoleic acid per day). Among women with a body mass index of 25 or below, the hazard ratio for breast cancer incidence was 1.27 (95% CI 0.99-1.63), comparing the highest to the lowest quintile of ascorbic acid intake. Consumption of foods high in ascorbic acid may convey protection from breast cancer among women who are overweight and/or have a high intake of linoleic acid.

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