gms | German Medical Science

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007

17. bis 21.09.2007, Augsburg

Inverse association between use of herbal preparations containing phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women

Meeting Abstract

  • Nadia Obi-Osius - Universitätsklinikum Hamburg Eppendorf, Hamburg
  • Tracy Slanger - DKFZ, Heidelberg
  • Elke J. Mutschelknauss - Uniklinik Eppendorf, Hamburg
  • Silke Kropp - DKFZ, Heidelberg
  • Jürgen Berger - em. IMBE/UKE, Hamburg
  • Wilhelm Braendle - Frauenklinik/UKE, Hamburg
  • Jenny Chang-Claude - DKFZ, Heidelberg
  • Dieter Flesch-Janys - IMBE/UKE, Hamburg

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007. Augsburg, 17.-21.09.2007. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2007. Doc07gmds298

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: September 6, 2007

© 2007 Obi-Osius et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Introduction: Since long term use of hormone therapy (HT) for menopausal disorders has been critically discussed, herbal preparations are increasingly offered as an treatment option. Most herbal preparations available in Germany contain specific phytoestrogens (isoflavonoids, flavones, flavonols, i.e. cimicifuga, hypericum, vitex agnus castus). Some studies showed a protective effect of dietary flavonoid and lignan intake on breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women [1], [2]. We investigated a possible inverse relationship between use of herbal preparations and breast cancer risk in the MARIE-study.

Methods: The study included 10121 postmenopausal women (6657 controls, 3464 breast cancer cases) aged 50-74 years. Face to face interviews have been conducted between 2002 and 2005. Along with potential breast cancer risk and life-style factors, complex information on menopausal herbal preparation use (MHP) was collected (brand names, duration, age at first/last use). Adjusted logistic regression analysis was used to estimate ORs and 95%-confidence intervals.

Results: Out of the study population 9% (919) ever used MHP for at least three month, 3.3% and 5.7% being current and past users, respectively. Compared to never users, the odds ratios for MHP indicators were statistically significantly lower in all models controlled for several known risk factors including “ever HT use” (MHP: ever use OR 0.69, CI 0.59-0.81, past use OR 0.73, CI 0.61-0.89, current use OR 0.61, CI 0.47-0.79). Breast cancer risk appeared to decline with duration of use (ORs 0.76, 0.67, 0.67 for <1 year, 1-5 years and > 5 years, respectively).

Discussion: Medication of menopausal symptoms with phytoestrogens was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer, predominantly in current and long term users. Further analysis will address potential influence of MHP on histological subtypes and receptor status. In addition, potential influence of higher dietary intake of phytoestrogens on breast cancer risk will be investigated.


Fink BN, Steck SE, Wolff MS, Britton JA, Kabat GC, Schroeder JC, Teitelbaum SL, Neugut AI, Gammon MD. Dietary flavonoid intake and breast cancer risk among women on Long Island. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;165:514-23.
Touillaud MS, Thiebaut AC, Fournier A, Niravong M, Boutron-Ruault MC, Clavel-Chapelon F. Dietary lignan intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk by estrogen and progesterone receptor status. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007;99:475-86.