A healthy diet may protect women from breast cancer

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In a new study, researchers found women whose diets tend to feed inflammation may have a higher risk of breast cancer.

They tested more than 350,000 women and found that the more “pro-inflammatory” foods women consumed the higher their breast cancer risk.

The term refers to foods thought to contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body—a state implicated in various disease processes.

The findings add to evidence that diet can affect the likelihood of developing breast cancer.

Diet habits have been linked to the risk of numerous cancers, breast cancer among them.

In the study, the team focused on a pro-inflammatory diet, which is high in red and processed meats, sugar and saturated fats.

They used data from a long-running research project on diet and cancer risk among European adults. They focused on more than 318,000 women who were free of breast cancer at the outset.

The researchers assigned each woman a score rating the “inflammatory potential” of her diet, based on the nutrients and other compounds in the foods she reported eating.

Over about 15 years, more than 13,200 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. That risk was 12% higher among the one-fifth of women with the most inflammatory diets, versus the one-fifth eating the fewest pro-inflammatory foods.

The link was stronger among women who developed cancer before menopause, rather than after.

A pro-inflammatory diet may contribute to breast cancer because it promotes inflammation, and also because it’s lacking in foods that fight inflammation.

Those foods include vegetables, fruits, beans, fiber-rich grains and “good” unsaturated fats.

The findings are in line with evidence that dietary patterns rich in plant foods and lower in animal products and refined carbohydrates are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

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The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. One author of the study is Carlota Castro-Espin.

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