Case–control studies show that copper (Cu) is high and zinc (Zn) low in blood and urine of women with breast cancer compared with controls.


To assess whether prediagnostic Cu and Zn are associated with breast cancer risk, OR of breast cancer according to Cu, Zn, and Cu/Zn ratio in plasma and urine was estimated in a nested case–control study within the ORDET cohort, using conditional logistic regression adjusted for multiple variables: First 496 breast cancer cases and matched controls, diagnosed ≥2 years after recruitment (to eliminate reverse causation) were analyzed. Then all eligible cases/controls were analyzed with stratification into years from recruitment to diagnosis.


For women diagnosed ≥2 years, compared with lowest tertiles, breast cancer risk was higher in the highest tertile of plasma Cu/Zn ratio (OR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.21–2.54) and the highest tertile of both plasma and urine Cu/Zn ratio (OR, 2.37; 95% CI, 1.32–4.25). Risk did not vary with ER/PR/HER2 status. For women diagnosed <2 years, high Cu/Zn ratio was strongly associated with breast cancer risk.


Our prospective findings suggest that increased Cu/Zn ratio in plasma and urine may be both an early marker of, and a risk factor for, breast cancer development. Further studies are justified to confirm or otherwise our results and to investigate mechanisms.


Our finding that prediagnostic Cu/Zn ratio is a strong risk factor for breast cancer development deserves further investigation and, if confirmed, might open the way to interventions to reduce breast cancer risk in women with disrupted Cu/Zn homeostasis.

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