Consumption of certain types of fat appears to increase the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women, according to a report published in the July 16th issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
This is the first prospective study to link fat intake with breast cancer in premenopausal women, lead author Dr. Eunyoung Cho, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health. “Previous prospective studies, which have included mainly postmenopausal women, have failed to show an association.”The current findings are based on a study of more than 90,000 premenopausal women who were followed for 8 years. At enrollment in 1991 and again in 1995, fat intake was assessed with food-frequency questionnaires.During the study period, 714 women developed invasive breast cancer. According to Dr. Cho, “most of these women were still premenopausal at the time of diagnosis.”Although total fat intake was not linked to breast cancer, consumption of certain fat types did confer an increased risk, Dr. Cho said. Intake of animal fat, typically from red meat and high-fat dairy foods, increased the risk of cancer, while consumption of vegetable fats did not.Women who consumed high amounts of animal fat were up to 54% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who consumed the lowest amounts, the findings indicate.”We don’t have any good biological explanation for our findings,” Dr. Cho noted. “Fat intake has been hypothesized to raise hormone levels [that may increase the risk of cancer], but that doesn’t explain the difference in findings between animal fats and vegetable fats. We suspect there is some component present only in animal fats that increases the risk of breast cancer.”Dr. Cho noted that her team plans to follow the current cohort for a few more years to see if fat intake in the premenopausal period affects the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.(Source: J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:1079-1085: Reuters Health: Anthony J. Brown, MD: July 15, 2003: Oncolink)