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A Pilot Study of the Flaxseed Effects on Hormones and Lignans: Role of Race, Genes, and Gut Microbiome

Susan McCann, PhD, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in collaboration with Johanna Lampe, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Study abstract

The objective of this study is to determine how variation in gut microbial community composition and in steroid hormone and xenobiotic metabolizing genes affects the metabolism of mammalian lignans and steroid hormones at baseline and after exposure to a lignan-rich food (flaxseed), and how these associations differ for African American and Caucasian women. Humans are, in fact, superorganisms with a diverse genetic background that is augmented by diverse and metabolically active bacterial communities, the composition of which can be modified by specific dietary exposures. The central hypothesis is that the metabolic response to a dietary component results from the combined effects of an individual’s genetic makeup and the particular composition of that individual’s gut bacterial communities. Elucidation of interactions between the gut microbiome, host genetics, and diet will have a positive impact on development of improved targeted dietary interventions to reduce cancer risk.

Study review

The purpose of this study was to determine whether adding flaxseed (a food high in compounds that can change hormones) to a regular diet changes hormones that are related to breast cancer risk and if the effect of flaxseed differs between African- American and Caucasian women. The researchers turned to the Army of Women (AOW) to enroll up to 200 volunteers from the Buffalo, New York area. The Call to Action for this study was sent to AOW members on July 24, 2013. The researchers closed enrollment on February 3, 2017, after the AOW provided them with 35 women who were interested in enrolling in the study.