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Meats, Sweets May Boost Breast Cancer Risk

Chinese women who favored Western fare doubled their odds for malignancy, study showed

TUESDAY, July 10, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A study of older Chinese women suggests that a move toward a Western-style diet -- heavy on meat and sugary foods -- boosts breast cancer risk.

Postmenopausal Chinese women who ate a diet that included red meat, starches and sweets were twice as likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate the traditional vegetable-soy-fish diet, according to a study in the July issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

In the study, American and Chinese researchers studied women, ages 25 to 64, in Shanghai who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer between August 1996 and March 1998.

The dietary habits of the women with the 1,602 breast cancer cases were compared to those of more than 1,500 women without breast cancer.

The researchers found that overweight, postmenopausal women who ate a western-style diet had a greater than twofold increased risk of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers. There was no association between breast cancer risk and a vegetable-soy-fish diet.

The "meat-sweet" western diet relies on various kinds of meats, saltwater fish and shellfish, bread, milk, dessert and candy. The vegetable-soy-fish diet favors various vegetables, soy-based products, and freshwater fish.

"The Shanghai data gave us a unique look at a population of Chinese women who were beginning to adopt more western-style eating habits," researcher Marilyn Tseng, an associate member in the population science division at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said in a prepared statement.

"Our study suggests the possibility that the 'meat-sweet' pattern interacts with obesity to increase breast cancer risk," Tseng said. "Low consumption of a western dietary pattern plus successful weight control may protect against breast cancer in a traditionally low-risk Asian population that is poised to more broadly adopt foods characteristic of western societies."

More information

Breastcancer.org has more about nutrition and breast cancer.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, July 10, 2007
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