What is the role of diet in the etiology of breast cancer?

Updated: Dec 26, 2019
  • Author: Graham A Colditz, MD, DrPH; Chief Editor: Chandandeep Nagi, MD  more...
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Nutritional factors have been prominent among the hypothesized environmental determinants of breast cancer that account for the large variation in breast cancer incidence around the world and the large increases in rates among the offspring of migrants from countries with low incidence to countries with high incidence. The dominant hypothesis has been that high fat intake increases risk, although evidence from randomized interventions [54] and combined analysis of prospective epidemiologic cohort studies [55] fails to show a significant relation.

Milk consumption through premenopausal years (a highly consistent behavior over time) increases risk of premenopausal breast cancer and in more recent studies is associated with greater weight gain in adolescence [56] and with the development of acne among girls. High-fat dairy foods have also been related to risk of premenopausal breast cancer. [57]

The World Cancer Research Fund has conducted extensive systematic literature reviews and meta-analysis of published studies relating diet to risk of premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer and concluded that there is limited evidence supporting a role for components of diet such as fiber, fat, soy, and vitamins (A, C, D, E) in relation to breast cancer risk. [58] Alcohol, on the other hand, shows a convincing causal relation.

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