Vegetable-Rich Diet Linked to Reduced Breast Cancer Risk
Republished with permission of Natural Standards Research Collaboration ©2011

A recent study suggests that women who maintain a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, similar to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Breast cancer develops when cells begin to grow abnormally. Depending on what is stimulating the cancer cell growth, breast cancer may be classified as hormone receptor positive or negative. Hormone receptor positive cancer is fueled by the female hormones estrogen or progesterone, while hormone receptor negative cancer does not have hormone receptors, and therefore does not depend on female hormones to grow.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to reduce blood pressure. The diet encourages individuals to increase the consumption of vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products while decreasing the consumption of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 86,621 postmenopausal women in the Nurses' Health Study, including data from seven food frequency questionnaires during 1980-2006, to evaluate the potential association between dietary habits and breast cancer risk. After a 26 year follow-up period, 5,522 cases of breast cancer were reported. Of the reported cases, 3,314 were estrogen receptor-positive and 826 were estrogen receptor-negative.

The researchers found that maintaining a diet similar to the DASH diet was associated with a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer. The authors reported that this appeared to be in large-part because of high fruit and vegetable intake. They found that high vegetable intake and low carbohydrate intake were linked to reduced breast cancer risk overall, and high fruit and low protein vegetable intake were linked to reduced risk of estrogen receptor-negative cancer. The authors reported that no link was found between estrogen receptor-positive tumors and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Additional research is necessary to further understand these findings.

Fung TT, Hu FB, Hankinson SE, et al. "Low-carbohydrate diets, dietary approaches to stop hypertension-style diets, and the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer." American Journal of Epidemiology. 2011 Sep 15;174(6):652-60.