Pre-menopausal women who eat large amounts
of fibre could halve their breast cancer risk, a recent study
The University of Leeds researchers, who
studied 35,000 women, found those who ate 30g of fibre a day
had half the risk of those who ate less than 20g.
They said women should try to increase their
Experts said the International Journal of
Epidemiology study was more evidence of the benefits of a
To eat 30g, a person would need to eat a
high-fibre cereal for breakfast, switch from white or brown
bread to wholemeal and ensure they have five portions of fruit
and vegetables a day.
A team from the University of Leeds Centre
for Epidemiology and Biostatistics have been monitoring the
eating habits and health of more than 35,000 women for seven
They were aged 35 to 69 at the beginning
of the study.
Diet was assessed using a 217-item food questionnaire.
Unlike other studies looking at fibre intake
and breast cancer risk, the women studied had a range of diets
including groups who were wholly vegetarian or who did not
eat red meat.
Just under 16,000 women were pre-menopausal
when they entered the study, with 18,000 post-menopausal.
257 pre-menopausal women developed breast
cancer during the study, which was initially funded by the
World Cancer Research Fund.
They were found to be women who had a greater
percentage of energy derived from protein, and lower intakes
of dietary fibre and vitamin C, compared to women who did
not develop cancer.
However, the effect was not seen in the post-menopausal
group, in which 350 developed breast cancer.
The researchers say this may be because fibre
affects the way the body processes and regulates the female
Levels of the hormone are higher in pre-menopausal
Professor Janet Cade, who led the research,
said: "Our study found no protective effect in the older group,
but significant evidence of a link in the pre-menopausal women.
"The relevant exposure may be earlier in
life, explaining why the protective effect was not shown in
the post-menopausal group."
She added: "In addition, post-menopausal
women with high body mass indexes [who are overweight or obese]
have an increased risk of breast cancer.
"Their weight may over-ride any other effects
such as benefits from fibre."
Professor Cade added: "It goes along with
the general healthy eating advice to make sure that you are
getting plenty of fibre in your diet through breakfast cereals,
bread, pasta, fruit and vegetables."
Ed Yong, cancer information officer at Cancer
Research UK, said: "We already advise eating a diet rich in
fibre to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. "This study suggests
that it could help protect against breast cancer in younger
He added: "Until now, the evidence that fibre
could reduce the risk of breast cancer has been inconsistent.
"This study suggests that this is because
any protective effects are limited to women before their menopause.
"It further highlights the importance of
eating a healthy diet for reducing the risk of cancer."
Dr Sarah Cant, of the charity Breakthrough
Breast Cancer said separating out the individual effects of
different food was difficult.