Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer with Poorer Prognosis

Following a Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of a less common type of postmenopausal breast cancer that is difficult to treat, compared to those who least follow this diet, suggests a study published in the International Journal of Cancer. The link to lower risk was found with ER negative (ER−) breast cancer, a type of cancer that does not usually respond to hormone therapy.

The study was funded by World Cancer Research Fund, of which AICR is a member.

The study included over 62,500 women aged 55–69 who had given information on their diet and other lifestyle habits in 1986. Researchers then scored how closely each followed the Mediterranean diet and looked at how many women had developed breast cancers. 

After 20 years, the women who adhered more closely to the Mediterranean diet had a 40 percent lower risk of ER negative breast cancer.

The women were scored based on their intake of foods common to the The Mediterranean Dietary pattern including vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, and monounsaturated fats - also known as ‘good fats’, such as olive oil. This diet also has a low intake of refined grains such as white bread or white rice, red meat and sweets. Although the traditional Mediterranean Diet involves moderate alcohol consumption, this study excluded alcohol as this is a recognized risk factor for breast cancer.

Adhering to the Mediterranean diet showed only a nonsignficant weak link with the more common Estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and total breast cancer risk.

AICR and WCRF research show there are several lifestyle steps women can take to reduce breast cancer risk, such as staying a healthy weight and avoiding drinking alcohol. 

Reducing the Risk of Breast Cancer

AICR estimates that 1 in 3 US breast cancer cases could be prevented with lifestyle changes. See a summary of the findings in our infographic.

For more on AICR's findings on breast cancer, read more on the most recent Continuous Update Project report on preventing breast cancer.

The study was funded by the Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds Nederland (WCRF-NL), as part of the World Cancer Research Fund International grant program.

Source: van den Brandt, P. A. and Schulpen, M. (2017), Mediterranean diet adherence and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer: results of a cohort study and meta-analysis. Int. J. Cancer. doi:10.1002/ijc.30654

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      Published on March 7, 2017

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