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Mol Carcinog. 2012 May;51(5):379-88. doi: 10.1002/mc.20799. Epub 2011 May 6.

Urinary polyphenols, glutathione S-transferases copy number variation, and breast cancer risk: results from the Shanghai women's health study.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee 37203-1738, USA.


In vitro studies have found that flavanol epigallocatechin (EGC) and flavonols, but not flavanol epicatechin (EC), activate glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), a family of phase II enzymes that detoxify reactive oxygen species, such as catechol estrogen metabolites. This study was designed to investigate prospectively whether urinary excretion of tea polyphenols interacts with GST polymorphisms to influence breast cancer risk. We conducted a study of 352 incident breast cancer cases and 701 individually matched controls nested within the Shanghai Women's Health Study cohort of women aged 40-70 yr at baseline. Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry was used to measure urinary excretion of flavanols and flavonols. Real-time multiplex PCR was used to quantify the copy number variation in the GSTM1 and GSTT1 genes. Urinary excretion of flavonols and flavanols, particularly EGC (P = 0.02), was significantly higher among women null for GSTM1 than those positive for GSTM1. Flavonols and flavanols (EGC in particular) were associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer among those null for GSTM1 and GSTT1, with a P-value of 0.04 for the interaction between EGC and GSTM1 polymorphism. In contrast, among women possessing both GSTM1 and GSTT1, breast cancer risk increased with levels of flavonols, particularly kaempferol. The differential associations between polyphenols and breast cancer risk by GST polymorphisms, if confirmed, may provide a new avenue for the personalized prevention of breast cancer.

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