Study Finds Mediterranean Diet Prevents Breast Cancer

Women who adhered more closely to a Mediterranean diet were 40 per cent less likely to develop ER-negative breast cancerJM HIRSCH  AP

Researchers in The Netherlands came to their conclusion after monitoring more than 62,000 women for 20 years to see how their breast cancer risk was affected by their food intake.

The Mediterranean diet is a largely plant-based diet.

"Because breast cancer takes many years to arise, we were curious whether such a diet during the early phases of a woman's life is a risk factor", Michels said. After an average follow-up of nine years, those patients who consumed high amounts had a risk of up to 21 percent lower death from any cause, compared to those with a minimal intake.

In the current study, Zhang and her colleagues, including Esther John, Ph.D., senior cancer epidemiologist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, analyzed data on 6,235 American and Canadian breast cancer patients from the Breast Cancer Family Registry, a National Cancer Institute-funded program that has collected clinical and questionnaire data on enrolled participants and their families since 1995.

Overall, researchers found dietary soy intake to be safe, and noticed a correlation between high soy consumption and a decrease in the mortality risk for some breast cancer patients. In that study, the authors evaluated the association between daily consumption of natural isoflavones and all-cause mortality in 6,235 Canadian and USA women with breast cancer.

Researchers studied women who, as high schoolers, had consumed diets thought to increase levels of inflammation in the body.

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The findings could be particularly valuable as women with this form of cancer cannot be treated with hormone therapy and usually have a worse outcome than those with other types of breast cancer.

This drop in the mortality risk was noticed only in women who had hormone receptor-negative cancer and women who had not been taking anti-estrogen therapy such as tamoxifen. "Women who did not receive endocrine therapy as a treatment for their breast cancer had a weaker, but still statistically significant, association".

Eating a Mediterranean diet could help post- menopausal women reduce their risk of one of the most serious types of breast cancer by 40%, a study suggests.

"For women with hormone receptor-negative breast cancer, soy food products may potentially have a protective effect", she said. It is also characterised by a low intake of red meat and processed foods.

"Our findings suggest that survival may be better in patients with a higher consumption of isoflavones".

Although the traditional Mediterranean diet involves moderate consumption of alcohol, in this study it was excluded from the criteria, as it is a known risk factor for breast cancer and is linked to 12,000 cases annually.

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