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7 January 2011
Cholesterol increases risk of breast cancer

High fat and cholesterol levels found in a typical American-style diet play an important role in the growth and spread of breast cancer, say researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.

Their study, published in the American Journal of Pathology, examined the role of fat and cholesterol in breast cancer development using mice. The results showed that mice fed a Western diet develop larger tumors that are faster growing and metastasize more easily, compared to animals eating a "normal" diet.

"The consumption of a Western diet resulted in accelerated tumor onset and increased tumor incidences, multiplicity, and burden, suggesting an important role for dietary cholesterol in tumor formation," says Kimmel cancer specialist Philippe G. Frank. There was also a trend towards an increased number of lung metastasis in mice fed the fatty diet, he added.

To confirm the aggressive nature of the cancer in animals fed a cholesterol-rich diet, the researchers examined the levels of several biomarkers of tumor progression and found a signature of a more advanced cancer stage, compared to tumors that developed in the control group.

The findings suggest that use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, may both protect against breast cancer as well as treat patients carrying tumors. Since researchers also found that blood cholesterol levels dropped significantly as tumors began to develop, the study indicates measuring blood cholesterol levels may also be an effective method of screening cancer development.

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Source: Thomas Jefferson University

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