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More evidence suggests diet affects breast cancer risk

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By Jimmy Downs

Thursday Sept 27, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- It is commonly believed that the hormone estrogen is needed to promote growth of breast cancer cells.  But a new study in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that diet at least certain dietary components such as certain fatty acids used in early life may influence the risk of breast cancer in a female.

Dr. Russ Hovey of the University of California, Davis and colleagues conducted the study and found diet and shifts in body metabolism that are commonly seen in people with obesity or Type 2 diabetes can stimulate breast growth, independent of the harmful estrogen effect.

In the study, mice were fed a diet supplemented with a fatty acid known as 10,12 conjugated linoleic acid or 10,12 CLA, which in human beings is associated with a broader metabolic syndrome including symptoms like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers used 10,12 CLA because it has been known that this fatty acid disrupts normal metabolic processes.  In the study, they found 10,12 CLA, which is available as a supplement as research suggests this supplement may provide some health benefits, stimulated the mammary ducts to grow even though the mice lacked estrogenic activity.  

They also observed that the 10,12 CLA included diet induced breast development and increased the formation of mammary tumors in some mice even though estrogenic activity was knocked out in the  mice.

The tumor promotional effect of 10,12 CLA varied by the mouse strain, suggesting that genetic components related to the dietary and metabolic changes affect breast cancer risk in different populations, according to Hovey.

"The findings of this study are particularly important when we superimpose them on data showing that girls are experiencing breast development at earlier ages, coincident with a growing epidemic of childhood obesity," Hovey said.

Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA)  include a family of 28 isomers of linoleic acid found mainly in meat and dairy products although some can be found in plant-based oils or foods.

Breast cancer is expected to be diagnosed in 230,000 women in the United States in 2012 and the disease and ts complications are expected to kill about 37,000 in the country, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Breast cancer in many cases is preventable.  A healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet is believed to be beneficial.  But according to an authoritative organization, two major risk factors for breast cancer are medical radiation and hormone replacement therapy.

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