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October 1, 2015 | 3 minute read

Hot Topics in Breast Cancer Research

With research involving the prevention and survivorship of breast cancer a vibrant area, there’s a good chance you regularly hear about what some new study has uncovered. Here at AICR, we fund some of those studies – the ones related to related to how foods, activity and weight link to reduce reducing women’s risk of breast cancer and improving survivorship.

A lot of that research is only just emerging, while other areas are clear.

Now, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are the top emerging areas of research involving diet, exercise and weight and breast cancer – many of which AICR scientists are investigating.

Emerging research

  • Body size throughout life – From girls childhood through the teens, scientists are investigating how body weight and diet during those years may play a role in the development of adult breast tumors, decades later.
  • Dietary fat and breast cancer – Foods loaded with fats are often high in calories, making weight gain an issue. But can dietary fat by itself play a role in the development of breast tumors or survival? AICR’s last report on breast cancer survivorship indicated that diets high in total and saturated fat linked to higher mortality, but there was not enough evidence was not enough to form a conclusion. It’s a big and ongoing area of research.
  • Vitamin D and breast cancer – Currently, there’s not enough evidence to conclude that high amounts of vitamin D reduce the risk of cancers, at least the common ones studied such as breast cancer. Researchers are continuing to study vitamin D’s potential role in breast cancer, possibly protecting women who are deficient in the vitamin.
  • Exercise and breast cancer survival – Being active reduces women’s risk of developing breast cancer, but how much exercise and what types may help survivors is a fast-growing area of study. One study is investigating how exercise affects genes in breast tumor cells, providing insight into prognosis. Research suggests it may help with quality of life, fatigue, and possibly other challenges survivors face. It may also help with weight management.
  • Diet and breast cancer – A recent study connected eating the Mediterranean Diet to lower risk. And previous research has pointed to carotenoids – the family of orange- and red-colored phytonutrients in such foods as carrots and tomatoes – linking to lower risk of breast cancers. Carotenoid-rich foods and the Mediterranean Diet are packed with compounds studied for their role in cancer prevention. They also feature plant foods, many low in calories – which can help with weight management.

What we know

  • What is clear evidence now is that many breast cancers are preventable.
  • Excess body fat and alcoholic drinks increase risk of breast cancers; being active and breastfeeding decrease it. Research also shows that eating moderate amounts of soy foods does not increase risk.
  • AICR estimates that one-third of all breast cancer cases in the US could be prevented with everyday changes to diet and activity.

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