Eating a high-fat diet may lead to an increased risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women, according to a study in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Although environmental and animal studies have suggested that greater fat consumption may increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer, the results of epidemiologic studies have been inconclusive.
Anne Thiébaut, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues asked 188,736 postmenopausal women how much and how often they ate certain foods to determine how fat intake affects breast cancer risk. Of the women surveyed, 3,501 developed invasive breast cancer.
The researchers found that doubling fat intake, from 20 percent to 40 percent, was associated with a 15 percent increase in breast cancer risk. The increase in risk was similar for all types of fat—saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
"Meanwhile, results from this large prospective cohort with a wide intake range should contribute to the ongoing debate about the association between dietary fat and the risk of the breast cancer," the authors write.
In an accompanying editorial, Stephanie Smith-Warner, Ph.D., and Meir Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, propose that interventions that focus on controlling the amount of body fat, rather than fat intake, would be more effective in preventing breast cancer.
"The modest associations that have been observed for dietary fat and breast cancer risk in observational studies and clinical trials stand in sharp contrast to the robust evidence for a strong link between [body fat] and the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer," the authors write.
Note: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute is published by Oxford University Press and is not affiliated with the National Cancer Institute. Attribution to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is requested in all news coverage. Visit the Journal online at http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/.
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