Dietary Flavonoids May Decrease Risk of Ovarian Cancer

Dietary Flavonoids May Decrease Risk of Ovarian Cancer

According to results presented at the 97th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), dietary intake of flavonoids may decrease the risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, further study is necessary to confirm this finding.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S.; according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 22,220 new cases were diagnosed in 2005.

Ovarian cancer is referred to as a “silent killer” because its symptoms are often not noticed by patients until the disease is in an advanced stage. Furthermore, there is no widespread screening procedure for the early detection of ovarian cancer. Once the cancer has spread from the ovary, long-term survival rates are not promising.

Due to the deadly nature of ovarian cancer, researchers continue to evaluate factors-including diet and exercise-that may reduce the risk of developing this disease.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health recently conducted a study to evaluate the potential effects of dietary flavonoids on the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Flavonoids are plant chemicals that can be found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine. This study included review of food intake surveys and the rate of ovarian cancer among data from 66,384 women in the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study; the Harvard study collected health data from participants over a 30-year period.

Overall, a greater intake of dietary flavonoids resulted in a reduction in the risk of ovarian cancer:

  • Increasing consumption of dietary flavonoids was associated with a decreasing risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • The flavonoid kaempferol, which was primarily consumed in caffeinated tea, broccoli, and kale, demonstrated a 38% reduced incidence of ovarian cancer among women with the highest intake compared to those with the lowest intake.
  • Long-term consumption of flavonoids seemed to be important: The associations between high intake of flavonoids and decreased risk of ovarian cancer were stronger when the average intake spanned over a 14-year period.

The researchers concluded that high dietary intake of flavonoids may significantly reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer. However, they caution that since this is the first study of its kind, more study is necessary to confirm this finding.

Reference: Gates, et al. A Prospective Analysis of Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Epithelial Ovarian Cancer Incidence. Proceedings from the 97th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. April 2006. Abstract No. 4013

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