Zinc has been suggested to be protective against breast cancer, but the evidence remains inconclusive. One reason for inconsistent findings in previous studies may be that zinc only influences the risk of developing certain subtypes of breast cancer. Our study is the first study assessing zinc levels in relation to the risk of different breast cancer subgroups, defined by their tumor characteristics. In addition, we analyze serum zinc as a marker of dietary intake.
The Malmö Diet and Cancer Study is a population-based cohort study that took place 1991–1996 in Malmö, Sweden. Until end of follow-up, 31 December 2013, 1186 incident cases were identified and matched to an equal number of controls. Odds ratios (ORs) for breast cancer, and having a certain tumor characteristic, were estimated in quartiles of baseline serum zinc and zinc intake and adjusted for potential confounders.
No associations were found between zinc, measured in serum or diet pre-diagnostically, and breast cancer risk. The adjusted OR for breast cancer in serum zinc Q4 compared to Q1 was 1.09 (0.85–1.41) and in zinc intake Q4 versus Q1 was 0.97 (0.77–1.23). Moreover, there were no clear associations between zinc and any breast cancer characteristics. The kappa value, 0.025 (P = 0.022), showed poor agreement between serum zinc and zinc intake.
Our findings indicate that there is no clear association between zinc and overall breast cancer risk or risk of different breast cancer subgroups. Finally, our results suggest that serum zinc is a poor marker of zinc intake.