Study Links Breast Cancer to Western Diet

A “western” diet heavy on red meat, starches and sweets is linked to a rise in breast cancer among post-menopausal Chinese woman, according to a new study by US and Chinese researchers.

Examining data and interviewing subjects from the 1990s Shanghai Breast Cancer Study by Vanderbilt University scientists, researchers found in the new study a correlation between higher incidence of breast cancer and a move from a diet heavy on vegetables, soy-based products and freshwater fish to a diet labelled “western” that includes a greater proportion of meat, saltwater fish and shellfish, milk, bread, candy and desserts.

The study, which involved 1,602 breast cancer cases and a larger control group, found that a highly “meet-sweet” diet was linked to more than double the risk of getting estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, one of the most common types.

“The ‘meat-sweet’ pattern was significantly associated with increased risk of breast cancer among overweight postmenopausal women,” a summary of the study said.

“The Shanghai data gave us a unique look at a population of Chinese women who were beginning to adopt more western-style eating habits,” said Marilyn Tseng of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which supported the study along with the Shanghai Cancer Institute, Harvard University, and Vanderbilt University.

“We found an association between a western-style diet and breast cancer was pronounced in post-menopausal women, especially heavier women with estrogen receptor-positive tumors,” she said.

“Our study suggests the possibility that the ‘meet-sweet’ pattern interacts with obesity to increase breast cancer risk.”

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