Limiting carbs could reduce breast cancer recurrence in women

June 11, 2014 in Cancer Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Limiting carbs could reduce breast cancer recurrence in women

Researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College have found that reducing carbohydrate intake could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence among women whose tumor tissue is positive for the IGF-1 receptor. These soon to be published findings add to the growing body of research demonstrating associations between obesity, diabetes and cancer risk.

The insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) receptor is a protein found on the surface of cells that’s activated by a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). The IGF-1R is implicated in several cancers including breast, prostate and lung cancers.

Expression of IGF-1 receptors may contribute to treatment resistance among breast cancer survivors. Since diet can influence insulin activation, the researchers wondered whether diet could impact breast cancer prognosis based on expression of the IGF1 receptor in the primary breast tumor tissue.

The study assessed the combined association of two factors implicated in tumor growth -- carbohydrate intake and IGF1 receptor status -- to test whether activating the insulin/insulin-like growth-factor axis can impact breast cancer. Since carbohydrates stimulate the biological pathway that can increase concentrations of IGF1, the researchers focused on carbohydrate intake. The women they studied were part of a larger intervention trial called the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study conducted between 2001 and 2007.

They found an association between increased breast cancer recurrence in women with a primary breast cancer tumor that was positive for the IGF1 receptor, which is consistent with other studies. The researchers also found that a decreased carbohydrate intake was associated with decreased breast cancer recurrence for these women.

This is the first study to suggest that it might be possible to personalize recommended diets for breast cancer survivors based on the molecular characteristics of their primary tumor.  The researchers noted that further research is needed to confirm these findings, and that breast cancer survivors should not be concerned about dramatically lowering their carbohydrate intake based on this study.

Breast cancer survivors should continue to follow a plant-based dietary pattern as suggested by the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Association, which means eating plenty of fibre-rich vegetables, legumes and fruits; consuming whole grains and limiting refined grains and added sugar.

Source: Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, July 2014

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