Polyphenols may play a chemopreventive role in colorectal cancer (CRC); however, epidemiological evidence supporting a role for intake of individual polyphenol classes, other than flavonoids is insufficient. We evaluated the association between dietary intakes of total and individual classes and subclasses of polyphenols and CRC risk and its main subsites, colon and rectum, within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. The cohort included 476,160 men and women from 10 European countries. During a mean follow-up of 14 years, there were 5991 incident CRC cases, of which 3897 were in the colon and 2094 were in the rectum. Polyphenol intake was estimated using validated centre/country specific dietary questionnaires and the Phenol-Explorer database. In multivariable-adjusted Cox regression models, a doubling in total dietary polyphenol intake was not associated with CRC risk in women (HRlog2 = 1.06, 95% CI 0.99-1.14) or in men (HRlog2 = 0.97, 95% CI 0.90-1.05), respectively. Phenolic acid intake, highly correlated with coffee consumption, was inversely associated with colon cancer in men (HRlog2 = 0.91, 95% CI 0.85-0.97) and positively associated with rectal cancer in women (HRlog2 = 1.10, 95% CI 1.02-1.19); although associations did not exceed the Bonferroni threshold for significance. Intake of other polyphenol classes was not related to colorectal, colon or rectal cancer risks. Our study suggests a possible inverse association between phenolic acid intake and colon cancer risk in men and positive with rectal cancer risk in women.
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