Aryl hydrocarbon receptor diet and breast cancer risk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer and leading cause of cancer mortality among women worldwide. However, the majority of breast malignancies are of sporadic etiology. Therefore, identifying risk-mitigating factors may significantly decrease the burden of breast cancer. Diet can have both a predisposing and protective role in breast tumorigenesis. However, establishing efficacy of dietary constituents for cancer prevention has been limited by suboptimal dietary assessment. There is a need to acquire new experimental evidence that can be used to discriminate beneficial from harmful dietary constituents. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR†) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that is recognized as the mediator of halogenated and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon toxicities. Importantly, evidence points to a breast tumor-promoting role for the AhR. Preclinical and clinical studies suggest that the AhR is overexpressed in advanced and triple negative breast cancers. Several dietary constituents, namely flavonoid compounds, have demonstrated inhibitory effects on AhR activation. Given this background, in this paper we elaborate on the working hypothesis that a diet rich in AhR food agonists favors breast tumor development, whereas a diet rich in AhR food antagonists is protective. As an initial approach to developing an AhR diet hypothesis, we conducted a review of published studies reporting on the association between intake of AhR inhibitory foods and risk of breast cancer. To assist the reader with interpretation of the concepts leading to the AhR diet hypothesis, we have preceded this review with an overview of AhR biology and its role in breast cancer development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-127
Number of pages23
JournalYale Journal of Biology and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018


  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • BRCA1
  • Breast cancer
  • Dietary bioactives
  • Dioxin
  • Epigenetics
  • Flavonoids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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