A35-country study was conducted from 1989 to 1996 to help determine dietary links to breast cancer mortality. Results showed that the consumption of animal products, especially well-cooked meat, is associated with increased risk as they contain carcinogens, boost insulin-like growth factor, and increase lifetime exposure to estrogen. The study also reconfirmed that plant foods such as fruits, whole-grain cereals, vegetables, and the nutrients found in them, such as ascorbic acid and beta-carotene, lower breast cancer risk.
Grant WB. An ecologic study of dietary and solar UV-B links to breast cancer mortality rates. Cancer. 2002;94:272-281.
Canadian researchers tested breast milk samples from 11 healthy, lactating women and in 9 volunteers found a chemical suspected to raise breast cancer risk. The carcinogen, known as PhIP, is almost exclusively associated with grilled or charbroiled meats. Indeed, all but one of the women had eaten well-done meat during their last three meals. Little or no PhIP is produced by grilling vegetables or other plant foods.
DeBruin LS, Martos PA, Josephy PD. Detection of PhIP in the milk of healthy women. Chem Res Toxicol. 2001;14:1523-1528.
The Hispanic population in the United States is projected to become the largest minority population by 2030. Although breast cancer is the most common cancer among Hispanic women, few studies have focused on their risk factors. A new study examined data collected from 332 Hispanics and 380 non-Hispanic whites with breast cancer in New Mexico, finding that high levels of physical activity reduced breast cancer risk in both groups of women, possibly up to 30 percent.
Li R, Gilliland F, Baumgartner KB, Samet J. Family history of breast cancer in Hispanic and non-Hispanic women: the New Mexico Women’s Health Study. Cancer Causes Control. 2001;12:747-753.
A Canadian study reveals that group therapy among cancer patients reduces the severity of related symptoms. Researchers randomly assigned 235 women with metastatic breast cancer to weekly supportive group therapy sessions or to a control group that received no such intervention. Women in therapy reported feeling less pain and greater improvement in psychological symptoms, especially for those who were initially most distressed.
Goodwin P, Leszcz M, Ennis M, et al. The effect of group psychosocial support on survival in metastatic breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2001;345:1719-26.
Body Mass Index
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle conducted a follow-up study of 1,117 women younger than 45 who had invasive ductal breast carcinoma and found those with the greatest body-mass index (excess weight) were 2.5 times more likely to die of the disease within five years of diagnosis. This finding underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight for both cancer prevention and survival after diagnosis.
Daling JR, Malone KE, Doody DR, Johnson LG, Gralow JR, Porter PL. Relation of body mass index to tumor markers and survival among young women with invasive ductal breast carcinoma. Cancer. 2001;92:720-729.
A January 2000 article in the British medical journal The Lancet reported the controversial finding that routine mammography does not save women’s lives. After the study was widely criticized, its researchers re-evaluated their data using a meticulous protocol developed by an organization specializing in research and scientific analysis. Their conclusions remain unchanged: Available data show no effect of screening on breast cancer death rates.
Olsen O, Gotzsche P. Cochrane review on screening for breast cancer with mammography. Lancet. 2001;358:1340-1342.
Preventing Gastric and Esophageal Cancers
With gastric and esophageal cancers rising rapidly in the United States, Yale University researchers analyzed the diets of patients in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington state to see if patterns could be found.
Higher intakes of nutrients found primarily in foods of animal origin showed an increased risk, while higher intakes of nutrients found in plant foods—fiber, beta-carotene, folate, vitamins C and B6—were associated with lower rates of these cancers. Regularly taking vitamin C supplements significantly lowered risk of these stomach cancers as well.
Mayne ST, Risch HA, Dubrow R, et al. Nutrient intake and risk of subtypes of esophageal and gastric cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001;10:1055-1062.
Guarding Against Prostate Cancer
Researchers at Texas A&M University believe a natural chemical found in citrus pectin may protect against prostate and other cancers by acting as a communicator between wayward cells that are in danger of replicating out of control. Pectin is a carbohydrate found in many plant foods and is highly concentrated in lemons, grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines. Earlier research has found pectin to help reduce cholesterol and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Liu Y, Ahmad H, Luo Y, et al. Citrus pectin: characterization and inhibitory effect on fibroblast growth factor-receptor interaction. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49:3051-3057.