Western Diet Tied to Increased Risk of Breast Cancer

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Western Diet Tied to Increased Risk of Breast Cancer

Dietary factors may be related to breast cancer risk, which might be related to greater estrogen production from adipose (fatty) tissue and to eating fatty foods that increase circulating estrogens. In contrast, high-fiber foods tend to interrupt the circulation of estrogens and encourage their excretion. Researchers have long noted the lower incidence of breast cancer in countries where traditional plant-based diets based prevailed.

Researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia noted a striking increase in breast cancer incidence in migrants who abandoned their traditional diets that included rice, vegetables, and soy foods and who adopted Western diets high in meat, dairy products, and fat.

Marilyn Tseng, Ph.D., of the Division of Population Science at Fox Chase, examined women from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study. These patients, 25 to 64 years of age, had newly diagnosed breast cancer. The Shanghai data offered the researchers a unique look at a group of Chinese women who were beginning to adopt Western-style eating habits.
Two patterns emerged: a vegetable-soy pattern (tofu, cauliflower, beans, bean sprouts, and green leafy vegetables) and a meat-sweet pattern (shrimp, poultry, beef, pork, lamb, candy, milk, and desserts). They discovered that the more "Western" (meat-sweet) the diet, the greater the risk for breast cancer among postmenopausal Chinese women.
Although the risk was not associated with the vegetable-soy pattern, the risk was found to be associated with the meat-sweet pattern but only in postmenopausal women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) tumors. These tumors constitute the most common type of breast cancer and are often associated with obesity. The study suggested the possibility that the meat-sweet pattern interacts with obesity to increase breast cancer risk.

A high intake of the meat-sweet pattern was associated with a greater than twofold increased risk of ER+breast cancer among these women. It appears that a low consumption of a Western dietary pattern plus successful weight control might protect this traditionally low-risk Asian population against breast cancer.

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(Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention; 2007;16:1443-1448.)

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