Study Links Energy-Dense Diet to Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Women consuming foods with the highest energy densities were 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer


Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012 alone, World Health Organization (WHO) says. Different types of cancer have different mortality rates, but breast cancer is highly treatable because it can be detected very early whereas pancreatic cancer grows very rapidly and often manifests no symptoms

The biggest risk factor of developing cancer is obesity. It has even overcome smoking. A large percent of breast and ovarian cancer, especially, is associated with obesity. A new study that was just published in The Journal of Nutrition links consumption of an energy-dense diet to a 20 percent higher breast cancer risk.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 230,815 women and 2,109 men in the country were diagnosed –40,860 women and 464 men died from the disease.

Although the causes of breast cancer are complex, consuming a diet naturally high in fiber and water, including a variety of fruits and vegetables, may influence a woman’s chances of being diagnosed during her lifetime. In addition, obese women are much more likely than healthy-weight women to develop the disease, according to a press release.

Dietary energy density (ED) is a measure of diet quality that estimates the amount of energy per unit of food (kilocalories per gram) consumed. Low-ED diets are generally high in fiber and fruits and vegetables and low in fat.

The research observed 56,795 postmenopausal women with no previous history of breast or other cancers and who provided information on diet, lifestyle, and medical history in 1999.

During a median follow-up of 11.7 years, 2,509 breast cancer cases were identified. Compared to those eating the least-energy-dense diets, women consuming foods with the highest energy densities were 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer during the study.

The study analyzed data from the Cancer Prevention Study (CPS)-II, a prospective cohort study initiated and maintained at the American Cancer Society. From surveys, researchers estimated the energy density of each woman’s diet. Breast cancer diagnosis was then assessed in each participant until 2011, and the probability of diagnosis during the study was related back to the energy density of each woman’s dietary choices.

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Median dietary ED was 1.5 kcal/g. Women who consumed higher-ED diets were more likely to be heavier, to have a larger waist circumference, and to have experienced greater adult weight gain than those who consumed lower-ED diets.

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They were also more likely to be current smokers and less physically active. As expected, women who consumed higher-ED diets tended to have diets that were also higher in total energy and fat but lower in fiber.

More readings:

Signs of Cancer that Could Be Mistaken for Something Else

15 Things Your Dermatologist Wants You to Know About Skin Cancer

What Genetic Traits Reveal About Your Health

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