According to a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer, women who eat diets high in meat and dairy may be less likely to develop breast cancer - while those who eat high amounts of fiber, fruits and vegetables show a lower risk of ovarian cancer.
In this study, the dietary patterns of 3,600 women with either breast or ovarian cancer were compared with the diets of 3,413 healthy women in the same age group.
Four common dietary patterns were identified:
- the "animal product" pattern - Heavy in meat and saturated fat, but also zinc, calcium and certain other nutrients,
- the "vitamins and fiber" pattern - High in fiber, rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene and other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables,
- the "unsaturated fat" pattern - High amounts of vegetable and fish oils, as well as vitamin E,
- the "starch-rich" pattern - High in simple carbohydrates, vegetable protein and sodium.
Overall, women who followed a pattern rich in vitamins and fiber had a 23 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer, compared to women who consumed the lowest amounts of those foods and nutrients.
The animal-product pattern was linked to a similar reduction in breast cancer risk.
Women who followed the unsaturated-fat diet pattern had a slightly reduced risk of breast cancer.
The starch-rich diet was tied to elevated risks of both cancers.
Previous studies have found that women who eat high amounts of red and processed meat - or high amounts of simple carbohydrate - are more likely to develop breast cancer than other women.
Saturated fat, found mainly in animal products, has been tied to higher breast cancer risk in some studies, but not in others.
This study takes the approach of looking at how vitamins work in concert - coming from whole foods as a part of a balanced diet - rather than as single nutrients acting in isolation.
According to Health Canada, 2,600 new cases of ovarian cancer were found in Canadian women in 1999.
In 2007, 22,300 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and this number is rising. Diet-related risk factors include heavy alcohol consumption and post-menopausal obesity.
Knowledge about the relationship between foods and cancer development is a constantly changing. Click here for the latest research on how you can lower your risk of breast or ovarian cancer with nutrition strategies.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.