Dietary Fat and Breast Cancer


April 2008 UPDATE on Trans Fats:

In breast cancer research news, Reuters reported that trans-fats, which are being phased out of food because they clog arteries, may raise the risk of getting breast cancer, European researchers reported.

They found that women with the highest blood levels of trans-fats had about twice the risk of breast cancer compared to women with the lowest levels. Veronique Chajes of the French national scientific research center at the University of Paris-South and colleagues studied women taking part in a large European cancer trial.

They looked at blood samples collected between 1995 and 1998 from 25,000 women who had volunteered to report on their eating and lifestyle habits and then be followed for years to see if they developed cancer.

Dietary Fat and Breast Cancer

Marion M. Lee and Scarlett S. Lin,

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143; e-mail:,

One of the most often studied associations in epidemiology is dietary fat and breast cancer risk. That migrants from low-risk countries increase their risk on immigrating to higher-risk countries suggests that some modifiable lifestyle or environmental factor is responsible for the development of breast cancer.

Although early international correlational studies and experimental animals studies support dietary fat as a risk factor for breast cancer, more recent data from case-control studies and cohort studies have been equivocal, thus the analytical data do not support a strong positive association. The conflicting results from analytic studies may be due to methodologic issues associated with study design, dietary assessment tools, measurement error, improper statistical analyses, and a lack of heterogeneity in fat intake among the study population. Moreover, current dietary questionnaires may be inadequate in capturing true dietary intakes or capturing the risk with exposure during earlier periods of a woman's life.

Although two large clinical trials investigating the fat/breast cancer relationships issue are underway, researchers are generally skeptical at their ability to detect an independent association between fat and breast cancer risk. Further epidemiologic studies using current methodology may not prove to be fruitful in generating definitive answers to shed light on this controversial issue. In addition, rather than concentrating on dietary fat, researchers should focus on diets that are not only low in saturated fat, but also high in fruit and vegetable consumption.

Researchers should take advantage of advances in molecular and genetic technology for a different perspective in examining the issue. For example, markers of susceptibility to breast cancer that can detect women at higher risk for breast cancer may be helpful in clarifying the role of dietary fat. More comprehensive and multiple approaches to studying dietary factors and breast cancer are recommended.

Annu. Rev. Nutr. 2000. 20:221-248.

Premenopause Fat Intake & Risk of Bca

JCNI, 7/03 Animal Fat Increases Risk

Dietary Fat, Fat Subtypes & Bca Risk

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 3/02

Dietary Omega-3 (Marine) Reduces Risk (Bca)

Br J Cancer, 11/03

Chemoprevention & Various Oils: Breast Ca

Euro J Cancer Preve, 8/04

High-fat Food Choices Associated w/increased risk of breast ca

British J Nutrition, October 2008

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