29/10/2003

Saturated fats could 'slightly increase' breast cancer risk

Eating large amounts of saturated fat could "slightly increase" the risk of breast cancer, according to a review published in the British Journal of Cancer.

The analysis – which included 25,000 cases of breast cancer from 45 separate studies – also found an association between high meat consumption and the risk of developing the disease, according to the charity Cancer Research UK.

Previous research on the effects of dietary fat has produced conflicting and confusing results, said the charity.

But the new Canadian report suggests the relationship between breast cancer and dietary fat may be independent of obesity or high calorie consumption, reinforcing the need for a healthy, balanced diet.

Scientists at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Canada reviewed all the published literature on dietary fat and breast cancer and combined results from 45 different studies. The data included 25,000 breast cancer patients and over 580,000 healthy women worldwide.

The survey found that women who ate high amounts of saturated fat were on average around 20% more likely to develop breast cancer than low consumers of fat.

Eating large amounts of monounsaturated fats increased risk by about 10% – a non-significant difference – while overall fat consumption was related to a small, but statistically significant increase in risk of 13%, the research found.

Women who ate large amounts of meat were 17% more likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate little or none.

Scientists from Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council recently found that one of the common methods used to measure fat in the diet may have been helping to obscure its effect on breast cancer.

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK, which owns the British Journal of Cancer, said: "Tying down the various dietary contributors to cancer is important, as it will allow us to give the best possible advice about how to avoid cancer.

"The effect of dietary fat looks quite small, but the results add weight to the importance of a healthy, balanced diet, low in saturated fat and containing plenty of fruit and vegetables."

(gmcg)

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