Diet May Protect
Against Breast Cancer
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A lifelong commitment to a vegetarian
diet may lower a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, study
In the study, investigators found that vegetarians who had migrated
to England from the Indian subcontinent or East Africa and maintained
their native diet of vegetables and legumes had a slightly lower
risk of breast cancer than their peers who adopted a Western-style
diet, regardless of economic and social factors.
The researchers attribute the finding to the vegetarians' higher
intake of vegetables and fiber. In the st76yudy, the women who
consumed the most vegetables and fiber were the least likely to
be diagnosed with breast cancer. However, there was no clear association
between meat consumption and breast cancer, according to the report
in the May issue of the International Journal of Cancer.
"These findings suggest that lifelong vegetarianism may be associated
with a reduction in the risk of breast cancer through its association
with a higher intake of vegetables and (legumes)," report Dr.
Isabel dos Santos Silva and colleagues from the London School
of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK.
The researchers reviewed data on 240 women with breast cancer
who were matched to 477 healthy "controls." All women were South
Asian, younger than 75 and lived in England. Women answered written
questions about their diet over the past 2 or 3 years.
Lifelong vegetarians were slightly less likely to be diagnosed
with breast cancer irrespective of their income, social situation
and use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement, the study
Lifelong vegetarians also reported a much higher daily intake
of vegetables, lentils and other fiber-rich foods, but fruit intake
was similar in both groups. There was no association between a
woman's intake of calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates and
the risk of breast cancer.
"Although it is not possible to exclude the possibility that
meat abstention may also play a role, the findings provide evidence
that a lifelong diet rich in vegetables, such as those typically
found in South Asian diets, may be protective against this cancer,"
the researchers conclude.
SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer 2002;99:238-244.
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