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Thursday February 19 1:28 PM EST

Dietary Fat Not Linked To Breast Cancer

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A new report finds that there is no link between a diet high in fats and an increased risk of breast cancer.

The findings, published in a British journal, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, contradicts the results of previous studies in animals dating from the 1940s which found a direct link between a high-fat diet and an increased risk of breast cancer.

What causes breast cancer is still unknown, though various risk factors have been proposed. Diet is considered a prime factor in the development of breast cancer. "It is important to discover if diet is involved in the aetiology of breast cancer, as it is more amenable to change than some other risk factors," note the authors of the report.

Unfortunately, research studies that have looked for a possible relationship between breast cancer and a diet high in fats have reported conflicting results. Some studies showed an increased risk of breast cancer in a diet high in fats, others showed a protective effect with a high-fat diet. The authors believe that some of these studies may be biased as the "recall of usual pre-disease intake is influenced by current, different diet, and possibly also by knowledge of highly publicised hypotheses" relating high-fat intake to increased risk of breast cancer.

The results reported in this article support studies where dietary intake information obtained prior to disease development showed that "there was no increased risk of breast cancer associated with higher consumption of total or saturated fat." The authors found no significant difference in diet, except for iron and vitamin E levels, between women with breast cancer, women with benign breast disease, or women who returned for additional screening for breast cancer. There appeared to be an increased risk of breast cancer as the level of saturated fat in the diet increased, suggesting "that risk may increase with increased saturated fat intake." Higher levels of iron were associated with lower risk of cancer, whereas higher levels of vitamin E were associated with a higher risk of cancer.

The authors state that "this study has shown no evidence to support the hypothesis that dietary fat is an important contributor to breast cancer rates. It is unlikely that dietary fat intake has an important influence on breast cancer risk, unless this influence occurs much earlier in life." SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (1998;52:105-110)