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Western Diet Linked to Aggressive Breast Cancer

High dietary fat and cholesterol are associated with faster-growing, larger, aggressive tumors in mice

TUESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- A Western diet high in fat and cholesterol may be linked to larger, faster-growing tumors that metastasize more easily in mice predisposed to breast cancer, according to a study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Pathology.

Gemma Llaverias, Ph.D., of the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the role of fat and cholesterol in breast cancer development using the polyoma middle T (PyMT) mouse model, which is considered to closely parallel human breast cancer pathogenesis. The mice were given food reflective of a typical Western diet, which was higher in fat and cholesterol than the food fed to the control group. The team also compared serum cholesterol levels in PyMT mice and wild-type mice who were not predisposed to develop tumors when fed the high-fat diet.

The study team found that the number of tumors that developed in the mice that were fed a Western diet was almost double that of the wild-type mice. These tumors developed more quickly, showed greater angiogenesis, and were larger than those found in the control mice. Biomarkers of tumor progression indicated that the mice on the high-fat diet had a more advanced-stage cancer. Compared to wild-type mice, PyMT mice fed a Western diet had lower plasma cholesterol levels during tumor development, but not prior to its initiation.

"Results of the present study suggest that plasma cholesterol is an important determinant involved in the control of breast cancer. However, further research is needed to evaluate the various pathways affected in this disease," the authors write.

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