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Br J Cancer. Jul 1999; 80(9): 1470–1475.
PMCID: PMC2363084
Oestradiol and sex hormone-binding globulin in premenopausal and post-menopausal meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans
H V Thomas,1,2 G K Davey,1 and T J Key1
1Imperial Cancer Research Fund Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Gibson Building, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, OX2 6HE, UK
2Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF4 4XN, UK
Received October 20, 1998; Revised November 23, 1998; Accepted November 23, 1998.
Endogenous oestradiol is strongly associated with breast cancer risk but its determinants are poorly understood. To test the hypothesis that vegetarians have lower plasma oestradiol and higher sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) than meat-eaters we assayed samples from 640 premenopausal women (153 meat-eaters, 382 vegetarians, 105 vegans) and 457 post-menopausal women (223 meat-eaters, 196 vegetarians, 38 vegans). Vegetarians and vegans had lower mean body mass indices (BMI) and lower plasma cholesterol concentrations than meat-eaters, but there were no statistically significant differences between meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in pre- or post-menopausal plasma concentrations of oestradiol or SHBG. Before adjusting for BMI there were small differences in the direction expected, with the vegetarians and vegans having higher SHBG and lower oestradiol (more noticeable amongst post-menopausal women) than the meat-eaters. These small differences were essentially eliminated by adjusting for BMI. Thus this study implies that the relatively low BMI of vegetarians and vegans does cause small changes in SHBG and in post-menopausal oestradiol, but that the composition of vegetarian diets may not have any additional effects on these hormones. © 1999 Cancer Research Campaign
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