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Interaction of dietary folate intake, alcohol, and risk of hormone receptor-defined breast cancer in a prospective study of postmenopausal women

Alcohol intake is an established risk factor for breast cancer, but the underlying mechanism remains unknown. Four recent studies have described interactions of alcohol and low folate intake. We examined this interaction on the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer stratified by tumor receptor status for estrogen (ER) and progesterone (PR). The Iowa Women’s Health Study is a prospective cohort study of 34,393 at-risk women. Alcohol use and folate intake from diet and supplements were estimated at baseline in 1986 through a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. Through 1999, 1,875 cases of breast cancer were identified through linkage to the Iowa Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry. Compared with nondrinkers with folate intakes above the 50(th) percentile, women with low folate and high alcohol were at 1.43-fold greater risk (1.02-2.02). When stratified by tumor receptor status for ER or PR, the risks for low folate/high alcohol were 2.1 (1.18-3.85), 1.0 (0.76-1.42), 1.2 (0.88-1.70), and 1.2 (0.69-2.02) for ER-, ER+, PR+, and PR- tumors, respectively. Because the results were limited primarily to ER- tumors, one plausible interpretation of these data is that alcohol influences breast cancer through its metabolite, acetaldehyde, rather than through effects on ER levels and receptor-mediated pathways.

Authors: Sellers TA; Vierkant RA; Cerhan JR; Gapstur SM; Vachon CM; Olson JE; Pankratz VS; Kushi LH; Folsom AR

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002 Oct;11(10 Pt 1):1104-7.

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