International Health News

Fat intake and risk of breast cancer

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN. An international team of researchers from the Karolinska Institute, the University of Uppsala and the Harvard Medical School has just released a major research study dealing with the relationship between fat intake and the risk of breast cancer. The study which began in 1987 involved over 61,000 Swedish women born between 1914 and 1948. The women completed a food frequency questionnaire listing 67 commonly eaten foods and also answered more specific questions about their fat consumption. Between March 1987 and March 1993 a total of 674 confirmed cases of invasive breast cancer occurred among the women. Analysis of the collected data showed that a high intake of monounsaturated fats (eg. olive oil) is protective against breast cancer while a high intake of polyunsaturated fats significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer. A five-gram increment in the daily intake of polyunsaturated fats was found to correspond to a 69 per cent increase in risk. The largest contributor to polyunsaturated fat intake was margarine at 33 per cent followed by bread and cereals at 23 per cent, meat at 17 per cent, and dairy products at 11 per cent. The main polyunsaturated fat in the Swedish diet is linoleic acid. The researchers found no correlation between the intake of saturated fats and breast cancer risk nor between total fat intake (after adjustment for total energy intake) and risk although the already known association between body mass index and breast cancer risk was confirmed by the study. Note: Linoleic acid, an n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, should not be confused with linolenic acid, and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid. Alpha- linolenic acid (found in flax oil) has actually been found to be beneficial in some cases of breast cancer.
Wolk, Alicja, et al. A prospective study of association of monounsaturated fat and other types of fat with risk of breast cancer. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 158, January 12, 1998, pp. 41-45

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