Animal Fat Linked to Breast Cancer

Aug 07, 2004 05:01 AM EDT

A recent study has found that young women who eat more dairy products and red meat may increase their risk of breast cancer.

Up to 1/3 more likely

The eight-year study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, finds that women with the highest fat intake have a 33% greater risk of invasive breast cancer. Women in the higher risk group ingested 23% of calories from animal fat, on average, versus 12% in the other group. Vegetable fats do not affect the risk of breast cancer, according to the research.

A significant feature of the study is its inclusion of pre-menopausal women. While breast cancer tends to strike later in life, it may develop over the course of many years. The study of more than 90,000 women aged 26 to 46, suggests that a woman’s eating habits early in life may be important.

Cause still unclear

While the link between animal fat and breast cancer is valuable in the prevention of the disease, it is still unclear how fat causes cancer. It is theorized that fat may elevate hormone levels, thereby increasing cancer risk. Also, red meat contains known carcinogens and is often linked to colon cancer.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1.2 million people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.


1. W. Chen; et al., “Pre-Menopausal Fat Intake and Risk of Breast Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 95: 1079-1085.