Meat, Sweets Boost Breast Cancer Risk
Among Older, Overweight Women, Excess Meats, Sweets Boost Breast Cancer Risk 60% or More
July 10, 2007 -- A diet rich in meats and sweets can boost the risk of
breast cancer in older women by 60% or more compared with a diet rich in
vegetables, soy, and fresh fish, a new study of Asian women shows.
While there is no breast cancer diet, per se, the researchers did find that
certain dietary patterns can boost the risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer rates are typically low among Asian women, but as their breast
cancer rates have climbed steadily in recent years, experts have begun to focus
on the effect that adopting Western eating habits has on Asians. "There is
a hypothesis that a Western diet increases the risk of breast cancer,"
Marilyn Tseng, PhD, a study co-author, tells WebMD.
So her team carefully evaluated the diets of 1,459 breast cancer patients
and 1,556 healthy women in Shanghai to see if they could find a link between
diet and breast cancer risk. "It's the first time a Western diet
pattern has been linked with breast cancer in Asian women," says Tseng, an
associate professor in the population science division at Fox Chase Cancer
Center in Philadelphia. The effect held true only for the older
Tseng and her colleague interviewed Shanghai breast cancer patients and
Shanghai residents in depth about their eating habits over the past five years.
Women with breast cancer had been diagnosed from August 1996 through March
1998. The women in the comparison group were selected from the Shanghai
Resident Registry of permanent residents of urban Shanghai. The average age was
47 in each group.
The researchers uncovered two general dietary patterns. The
“meat-sweet” diet included various meats, mainly pork but also poultry, organ
meats, beef, lamb, saltwater fish, and shrimp along with candy, desserts,
breads, and milk. The "vegetable-soy" diet was filled with various
vegetables, soy-based products, and freshwater fish.
"What we found was the meat-sweet diet actually did increase the risk
for breast cancer," Tseng tells WebMD. The vegetable-soy diet wasn't found
to protect against breast cancer.
"We did not see a significant effect [of dietary patterns] on
premenopausal women, we saw it only in postmenopausal women," says Tseng.
The study is in the July issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers &
"A meat-sweet diet raised the risk [of breast cancer] by 60% in
postmenopausal women," Tseng says. Among women who were postmenopausal and
overweight, with a body mass index of 25 and greater, Tseng's team found a more
than twofold increased risk of getting a specific type of breast cancer, called
estrogen-receptor positive, if they ate the highest amounts of a meat-sweet
diet compared with the vegetable-soy one. Estrogen-receptor positive breast
cancer is typically less aggressive than estrogen-receptor negative breast
The meat-sweet pattern may have increased the risk of breast cancer by
increasing obesity, she says.