Eating a high-fat diet during puberty speeds up the development of breast cancer, say scientists from Michigan State University. The new research appears in the journal Breast Cancer Research.
Researcher Sandra Haslam said the findings indicate that before any tumors appear, there are changes in the breast that include increased cell growth and alterations in immune cells. These changes persist into adulthood and can lead to the rapid development of precancerous lesions and, ultimately, breast cancer.
In addition to the accelerated breast cancer development, the study also found that this type of diet produces a distinct gene signature in tumors consistent with a subset of breast cancers known as basal-like that can carry a worse prognosis. "This is very significant because even though the cancers arise from random mutations, the gene signature indicating a basal-like breast cancer shows the overarching and potent influence this type of diet has in the breast," explained Haslam.
Interestingly, the study's findings did not involve any weight gain from the high-fat diet, making the findings relevant to a much broader segment of the population than just those who are overweight. "This shows the culprit is the fat itself rather than weight gain," noted co-researcher Richard Schwartz.
He added that the fat, which in this case was saturated animal fat, could potentially have permanent effects even if a low-fat diet is introduced later in life.
"Overall, our current research indicates that avoiding excessive dietary fat of this type may help lower one's risk of breast cancer down the road," Schwartz concluded. "And since there isn't any evidence suggesting that avoiding this type of diet is harmful, it just makes sense to do it."
Discuss this article in our forum
"Good" cholesterol linked to breast cancer risk
Cutting calories improves response to cancer treatment
Medicos mull obesity's effect on breast cancer treatments
Source: Michigan State University