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Can Eating Peanut Butter Cut Breast Cancer Risk in Later Life?

Regular consumption in childhood tied to 39 percent lower odds of benign breast disease by age 30

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A daily serving of any of these foods was linked with a 68 percent reduced risk of benign breast disease. At age 14, a daily serving of any of those foods was linked with a 66 percent lower risk of benign breast disease, and girls who had about three servings a week of peanut butter had a 39 percent lower risk.

The researchers found a link between eating peanut butter and lower breast disease risk, not a cause-and-effect relationship, and Colditz said he can't explain yet why the peanut butter seems protective.

"It could well be the protein," he said. In previous studies, the researchers have looked at other factors of a healthy diet, such as milk consumption, and their role in breast health. The peanut butter finding, he said, is strong, even when taking into account an overall healthy diet. "It's not something we can make go away," he said.

For now, Colditz said, the take-home message is for teens and preteens to substitute peanuts and peanut butter for less-healthy snacks such as cookies.

Another expert who reviewed the findings said the study is well done.

Dr. Steven Chen, an associate clinical professor of breast and endocrine surgery at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Duarte, Calif., said that while lowering benign breast disease does lower breast cancer risk, many other factors increase breast cancer risk besides benign breast disease.

"It's always good to lower any risk [of breast cancer] you can, but whether peanut butter intake will have a major impact on developing breast cancer down the line, only time will tell," Chen said.

As for how to explain the link? "It's hard to say at this point," Chen said, adding that in countries where less meat is eaten, less breast cancer risk is reported. Based on the study findings, he said, teen girls and preteens "shouldn't avoid peanut butter and nuts if they are not allergic." Getting some protein through vegetables, which was also looked at in the study, is a good idea, too, he added.

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