Study: High Saturated Fat Intake Linked to Breast Cancer Risk

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An eye-opening study was published Wednesday online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Milan found that women who eat a diet high in saturated fat may be at an increased risk for several types of breast cancer.

Fox News reported on the study this week and spoke to study researcher Sabina Sieri, who said, “This study indicates that a diet high in saturated fat increases breast cancer risk, and most conspicuously, it suggests that saturated fat intake is involved in the causation of three subtypes of cancer.” Though Sieri’s study didn’t mark a specific “threshold” level of fat intake that raises a woman’s risk of breast cancer, she recommended that women not let their saturated fat intake exceed more than 10 percent of their daily diet.

According to Fox News, Sieri and her team conducted their research by studying data from 337,000 women, ages 20 to 70, in 10 countries in Europe. The study participants were followed for an average of 11.5 years, and what researchers found was that those women whose diets included a large amount of saturated fat from animal products were more likely to develop certain types of breast cancer, compared with those whose did not.

After having the women complete dietary and lifestyle questionnaires at the beginning of the study, the researchers followed the participants for and found that after that time, 10,062 women in the study, or 3 percent, had developed breast cancer.

Evaluating the women who were diagnosed with the disease and then cross-checking them with the questionnaires they answered earlier in the study allowed researchers to determine that higher fat consumption was linked with a greater risk of the types of breast cancer that are fed by certain hormones, such as estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, Fox News reports.

Those who ate the most saturated fat had a 28 percent increased risk of these types of hormone-fueled breast cancers, compared with those who consumed the least amount of saturated fat.

Sieri’s recently published study results come at a time when breast cancer numbers continue to rise and as experts work to determine how to prevent the increasingly prevalent disease. Though past studies have highlighted the association between high fat consumption and higher breast cancer risk, researchers have had trouble setting benchmarks and gathering accurate information on account of the different kinds of fat consumers eat in different regions.

Fox News’ Thursday report noted that breast cancer is now divided clinically into three subtypes, which have their own prognosis and set of risk factors. Sieri used these three subtypes in her research when classifying which form of breast cancer her participants had. Dr. Kim M. Hirshfield, a medical oncologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey explained to Fox News this week how that that alone sets Sieri’s research apart.

Hirshfield said to the news outlet, ”This research is impressive because it recognizes that breast cancer is not a single disease, and previous studies [of saturated fat] have overlooked that.”

Now, experts are hoping that future research can determine just how much saturated fat is safe for women to consume. Although many studies have elucidated that the higher the saturated fat intake, the higher the risk of breast cancer, researchers have been unable to set a benchmark for safe fat consumption.

That figure will be important moving forward, but for now, Fox News highlighted Hirshfield’s assertion that “For optimal breast health, and for overall health benefits in general, it is recommended that women consume saturated-fat calories closer to the lower end of the spectrum in the study, which is around 15 grams a day.”

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