Does a High-Fat Diet Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer?

Key Takeaways:

  • Recent research suggests a diet high in fats could potentially elevate the risk of three prevalent types of breast cancer: ER-positive, PR-positive, and HER2-negative breast cancers.
  • In a large-scale study conducted across Europe, women consuming more saturated fat had about a 30% higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Although the study finds correlation between high-fat diet and breast cancer, it does not definitively establish causation. Further studies are required to confirm these findings.
  • The potential link between high-fat intake and breast cancer could be due to a high-fat diet increasing estrogen levels in the body, which may stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Experts recommend limiting total calories from saturated fat to no more than 10 percent, as adopting a predominantly plant-based diet aids in keeping fat intake low.

For more than thirty years, there has been an ongoing argument amongst experts about the correlation between a high-fat diet and an increased risk of breast cancer. Recent research suggests that a diet rich in fats could potentially elevate the risk of three prevalent types of breast cancer.

Findings from a Large-Scale European Study

In an extensive study conducted across ten European countries involving over 337,000 women and spanning over 11 years, it was discovered that women with a higher intake of saturated fat were about 30% more likely to develop breast cancer compared to those who consumed the least.

Although this research indicates a connection between a diet high in fat and an increased risk of breast cancer, it does not confirm direct causation.

High-Fat Diet and its Relation to Breast Cancer Development

“Our study’s findings lend support to the hypothesis that the development of breast cancer is influenced by dietary fat,” expressed Sabina Sieri, a lead researcher on the project. She works within the department of preventive & predictive medicine at a medical research institution based in Milan.

Findings from the study were published on April 9 in an issue of a highly regarded medical journal (Journal of the National Cancer Institute).

Dietary Fat and the Risk of Breast Cancer Subtypes

Sieri and her research team noticed a significant association between a high consumption of total fat, saturated fat, and an increased risk of particular breast cancer subtypes known as estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) and progesterone receptor-positive (PR-positive). Furthermore, a diet rich in fat also appeared to elevate the risk of HER2-negative breast cancers.

Typically, ER- or PR-positive cancers develop in response to these hormones. HER2-negative cancers lack the presence of the protein, HER2, which accelerates the growth of cancer cells.

Importance of Sample Size

The significance of this study lies in its extensive scope, according to Mia Gaudet, a genetic epidemiology director at the American Cancer Society. The breast cancer subtypes found to be linked with fat intake are common. “The majority of breast cancers in the U.S. and Europe are ER-positive, PR-positive, HER2-negative,” she added.

Correlation between Fat Intake and Breast Cancer Risk

Women participating in the study answered questions about their fat intake, smoking habits, age at menstruation commencement, pregnancy history, hormone therapy use, and body mass index (a metric used to gauge body fat based on an individual’s height and weight).

To account for errors in measuring dietary intake, a random sample of 8% of the participants was re-interviewed for a 24-hour dietary recall. After an average follow-up period of 11.5 years, more than 10,000 women received a diagnosis of breast cancer. “By comparing the cancer cases with fat intake, we found a link between exposure to saturated-fat intake and breast cancer,” Sieri stated.

The Uncertain Link between High-Fat Intake and Estrogen Levels

In the group consuming the highest amount of saturated fat, the average intake was 48 grams per day, in contrast with 15 grams per day in the group with the lowest consumption. Sieri suggests that the potential link, although uncertain, may be attributed to a high-fat diet leading to increased estrogen levels within the body, which could stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.

“Further studies are necessary to corroborate these findings,” Gaudet emphasized. While this study accounted for many factors possibly contributing to increased cancer risk, it did not factor out all potential variables.

Reducing Fat Intake: A Recommended Approach

Until there is more definitive research on this topic, Sieri advises women to limit their total calories from saturated fat to no more than 10 percent. Gaudet concurs: “Adopting a predominantly plant-based diet aids in keeping fat intake low.”

For More Information

To get more insights on low-fat foods, you can visit the American Cancer Society’s information page on the subject.

Emma Caplan

Hola from sunny Costa Rica! I’m Emma Caplan, a California native turned Costa Rican resident. With over a decade of writing experience under my belt, I’ve crafted stories, articles, and narratives on a multitude of subjects. But at heart, health and lifestyle topics resonate the most with me.Not just a writer by profession, I'm an athlete by passion. CrossFit challenges and exhilarates me, shaping both my physical stamina and my perspective on life. I love intertwining my firsthand experiences from the box with my pieces, giving readers a unique blend of authenticity and expertise.Married and fully immersed in the pura vida lifestyle, I've found the perfect balance between my personal and professional life in this tropical paradise. Whether you're here for tips, insights, or stories, I’m committed to delivering content that informs, inspires, and perhaps even pushes you to try that one workout you've been hesitating to start.Join me in my journey as I explore the nexus between physical wellbeing and the art of writing. Let's sweat, learn, and grow together!
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