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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • green tea;
  • Asian Americans

Abstract

There is substantial in vitro and in vivo evidence implicating tea polyphenols as chemopreventive agents against various cancers. However, epidemiologic data obtained from mainly Western populations are not supportive of a protective role of tea, mainly black tea, in the etiology of breast cancer. Much less is known about the relationship between green tea and breast cancer risk. During 1995–1998, we conducted a population-based, case-control study of breast cancer among Chinese, Japanese and Filipino women in Los Angeles County and successfully interviewed 501 breast cancer patients and 594 control subjects. Detailed information on menstrual and reproductive factors; dietary habits, including intake of black and green tea; and other lifestyle factors was collected. Risk of breast cancer was not related to black tea consumption. In contrast, green tea drinkers showed a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer, and this was maintained after adjusting for age, specific Asian ethnicity, birthplace, age at menarche, parity, menopausal status, use of menopausal hormones, body size and intake of total calories and black tea. Compared to women who did not drink green tea regularly (i.e., less than once a month), there was a significant trend of decreasing risk with increasing amount of green tea intake, adjusted odds ratios being 1.00, 0.71 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.51–0.99) and 0.53 (95% CI 0.35–0.78), respectively, in association with no, 0–85.7 and >85.7 ml of green tea per day. The significant inverse association between risk of breast cancer and green tea intake remained after further adjustment for other potential confounders, including smoking; alcohol, coffee and black tea intake; family history of breast cancer; physical activity; and intake of soy and dark green vegetables. While both green tea and soy intake had significant, independent protective effects on breast cancer risk, the benefit of green tea was primarily observed among subjects who were low soy consumers. Similarly, the protective effect of soy was primarily observed among subjects who were nondrinkers of green tea. In summary, our results point to an important role of both green tea and soy intake in relation to breast cancer risk in Asian-American women. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.