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Diet link to cancers

28th February 2008

Recent findings published in an international journal have thrown into doubt the results of some previous studies linking certain dietary patterns to breast and ovarian cancers in women.

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The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, showed that women who ate plenty of meat and dairy products might have a decreased risk of breast cancer.

A lower risk of ovarian cancer, on the other hand, was found in a group that followed a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods.

One factor all the studies appear to agree on, however, is the link between a high level of alcohol intake and breast cancer.

Previous studies have suggested that women who eat a lot of red and processed meat are more likely to develop breast cancer than other women; but other studies have found no such link.

Saturated fat, found mainly in animal products, has been tied to higher breast cancer risk in some studies, but not in others.

The study, led by Valeria Edefonti of the University of Milan, worked with 3,600 women with either breast or ovarian cancer, assessing their dietary patterns and food combinations.

They compared these results with those gained from 3,413 healthy women of the same age.

Volunteers were asked to fill in questionnaires designed to identify four common dietary patterns.

These were classed as an 'animal product' pattern high in meat and saturated fat, but also zinc, calcium and certain other nutrients; a 'vitamins and fibre' pattern rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene and other nutrients; an 'unsaturated fat' pattern that contained high amounts of vegetable and fish oils, as well as vitamin E; and a 'starch-rich' pattern high in simple carbohydrates, vegetable protein and sodium.

The 'vitamins and fibre' pattern was associated with a 23% lower chance of getting ovarian cancer. A similar reduction in breast cancer likelihood was seen in the women who favoured the animal-product pattern.

The starchy diet was associated with a higher risk of both cancers, while the unsaturated-fat pattern produced a slight decrease in the risk of breast cancer.

 

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