Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and risk of colorectal cancer in two large prospective cohorts

Katharina Nimptsch (Lead Author), Xuehong Zhang, Aedin Cassidy, Mingyang Song, Eilis J. O'Reilly, Jennifer H. Lin, Tobias Pischon, Eric B. Rimm, Walter C. Willett, Charles S. Fuchs, Shuji Ogino, Andrew T. Chan, Edward L. Giovannucci, Kana Wu

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Background: Flavonoids inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells in vitro. In a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial, the Polyp Prevention Trial, a higher intake of one sub-class, flavonols, was significantly associated with reduced risk of recurrent advanced adenoma. Most previous prospective studies on colorectal cancer evaluated only a limited number of flavonoid sub-classes and intake ranges, yielding inconsistent results.  Objective: To examine whether higher habitual dietary intakes of flavonoid subclasses (flavonols, flavones, flavanones, flavan-3-ols and anthocyanins) are associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer.  Design: Using data from validated food frequency questionnaires administered every four years and an updated flavonoid food composition database flavonoid intakes were calculated for 42,478 male participants from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and for 76,364 female participants from the Nurses’ Health Study.  Results: During up to 26 years of follow-up, 2,519 colorectal cancer cases (1,061 in men, 1,458 in women) were documented. Intakes of flavonoid subclasses were not associated with risk of colorectal cancer in either cohort. Pooled multivariable adjusted relative risks (95% confidence interval) comparing the highest with the lowest quintile were 1.04 (0.91, 1.18) for flavonols; 1.01 (0.89, 1.15) for flavones; 0.96 (0.84, 1.10) for flavanones; 1.07 (0.95, 1.21) for flavan-3-ols; and 0.98 (0.81, 1.19) for anthocyanins (all p-values for heterogeneity by sex >0.19). In subsite analyses, flavonoid intake was also not associated with colon or rectal cancer risk.  Conclusion: Our findings do not support the hypothesis that a higher habitual intake of any flavonoid sub-class decreases the risk of colorectal cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-191
Number of pages7
JournalThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
Early online date4 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • HPFS
  • Health Professionals Follow-up Study
  • nhs
  • Nurses’ Health Study
  • CRC
  • colorectal cancer
  • FFQ
  • food frequency questionnaire
  • NSAIDs
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • AHEI
  • Alternate Healthy Eating Index
  • DASH
  • Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Score
  • RR
  • confidence interval

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