S-(-)equol producing status not associated with breast cancer risk among low isoflavone-consuming US postmenopausal women undergoing a physician-recommended breast biopsy

Academic Article


  • Soy foods are the richest sources of isoflavones, mainly daidzein and genistein. Soy isoflavones are structurally similar to the steroid hormone 17. β-estradiol and may protect against breast cancer. S-(-)equol, a metabolite of the soy isoflavone daidzein, has a higher bioavailability and greater affinity for estrogen receptor β than daidzein. Approximately one-third of the Western population is able to produce S-(-)equol, and the ability is linked to certain gut microbes. We hypothesized that the prevalence of breast cancer, ductal hyperplasia, and overall breast pathology will be lower among S-(-)equol producing, as compared with nonproducing, postmenopausal women undergoing a breast biopsy. We tested our hypothesis using a cross-sectional study design. Usual diets of the participants were supplemented with 1 soy bar per day for 3 consecutive days. Liquid chromatography-multiple reaction ion monitoring mass spectrometry analysis of urine from 143 subjects revealed 25 (17.5%) as S-(-)equol producers. We found no statistically significant associations between S-(-)equol producing status and overall breast pathology (odds ratio [OR], 0.68; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.23-1.89), ductal hyperplasia (OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.20-3.41), or breast cancer (OR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.16-1.87). However, the mean dietary isoflavone intake was much lower (0.3 mg/d) than in previous reports. Given that the amount of S-(-)equol produced in the gut depends on the amount of daidzein exposure, the low soy intake coupled with lower prevalence of S-(-)equol producing status in the study population favors toward null associations. Findings from our study could be used for further investigations on S-(-)equol producing status and disease risk. © 2014.
  • Published In

  • Nutrition Research  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Virk-Baker MK; Barnes S; Krontiras H; Nagy TR
  • Start Page

  • 116
  • End Page

  • 125
  • Volume

  • 34
  • Issue

  • 2