Women Who Get the Most Fiber at 29% Less Risk of Uterine Cancer

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IN STUDY AFTER STUDY, whole grains have been credited with helping to lower your risk for a host of ailments, including stroke, type-2 diabetes and heart disease, as well as enhancing weight maintenance. Whole grains' healthy dose of fiber is thought to be behind much of the good news.

Now add another reason to make your grains whole: reduced risk for uterine cancer.

A team of researchers led by Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, performed a meta-analysis of 10 different studies and found evidence that as fiber intake increased, women's uterine cancer risk dropped.

Endometrial cancer — cancer of the uterine lining — is the fifth most common cancer among women worldwide. About 7,000 American women die from the disease annually.

Dr. Bandera and colleagues, publishing their findings in the American journal of Clinical Nutrition, wrote that on the basis of seven case-control studies, every five grams of fiber per 100 calories consumed was associated with an 18% reduction in endometrial cancer risk. Looking at eight of the case-control studies, the researchers said that women who consumed the most fiber had a 29% risk reduction when compared to those with the lowest fiber intake.

Previous research has pointed to dietary fiber as helping to regulate estrogen levels in the body. The most common type of endometrial cancer, which typically develops after menopause, is associated with an excess of estrogen.

"Although the current evidence, based on data from case-control studies, supports an inverse association between dietary fiber and endometrial cancer, additional population-based studies, particularly cohort studies, are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn," the researchers concluded.

Along with whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans also are good sources of fiber, as well as a host of other nutrients. Even without proof of a causal relationship between fiber and reduced uterine cancer risk at this point, Dr. Bandera agreed that increasing intake of such foods would be a healthy move for numerous reasons.

She noted, "These foods may help maintaining a healthy weight, which is one of the most important recommendations for cancer prevention according to the new World Cancer Research Fund International recommendations." (See the February 2008 Healthletter.)

TO LEARN MORE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2007; abstract at . Whole Grains Council, . World Cancer Research Fund International, .

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