Cancer risk higher with Western diet

Cancer risk higher with Western diet

By JOANN LOVIGLIO, Associated Press Writer July 11, 2007

Older Chinese women who eat a Western-style diet loaded with meats
and sweets appear to have a greater risk for breast cancer than women
who eat mainly soy and vegetables, a new study has concluded.

Previous research has found connections between a meat- and
fat-heavy Western diet and several kinds of cancer, as well as heart
disease and diabetes. And other research has identified links between
obesity and cancer.

Researchers said this study signals a link between breast cancer and
overall eating patterns — not a single food or nutrient — in Asian
women, who have long had lower rates of the disease than Western women.
But their numbers have started to rise as their diets have become more

The study, which is not definitive, looked at general eating habits
of about 3,000 women in Shanghai, ranging in age from 25 to 64. About
half of that group had been diagnosed with breast cancer and are
participants in an ongoing breast cancer study in Shanghai.

All the women were interviewed at length about their diets,
answering questions about how often they ate 76 different items
commonly found in Shanghai. Researchers then categorized the women into
one of two dietary groups.

The "meat-sweet" group loaded up on red meat, shrimp, fish, candy,
desserts, bread and milk. The "vegetable-soy" group stuck to tofu,
vegetables, sprouts, beans, fish and soy milk.

Post-menopausal women in the meat-sweet group showed a 60 percent
greater risk of developing the most common kind of breast cancer, the
kind fueled by the hormone estrogen, compared to those in the
vegetable-soy group, according to U.S. and Chinese researchers who
conducted the study.

"We saw the clearest effect when we looked at post-menopausal women
who were overweight, so it looks like there’s an interaction between a
meat-sweet diet and being overweight," said study co-author Marilyn
Tseng, of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Researchers couldn’t say how the combination of a Western diet and obesity might work in tandem to drive breast cancer.

The study, which appears in the journal Cancer Epidemiology,
Biomarkers & Prevention, found no link, good or bad, between breast
cancer and a vegetable-soy diet.

"This isn’t a breakthrough, but it does add to the growing body of
evidence that diet is related to breast cancer and other cancers," said
Lawrence Cheskin, associate professor of international health and human
nutrition at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who
was not connected to the study.

"We see a rise in cancers depending on what we’re eating and if we’re obese."

Tseng also said that the research should be a less frustrating guide
for anybody looking to adopt sensible eating habits, instead of often
contradictory research that names one vitamin, mineral or food as a
cancer-quashing magic bullet.

"This gives us a broader sense because it looks at diet as a whole
as opposed to targeting one element," Tseng said. "In terms of public
health recommendations, that tends to give the wrong impression that
you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by going after one specific

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