High-Carb Diets Might Raise Breast Cancer Risk
Postmenopausal women who eat diets rich in starchy, sweet foods are at risk for a less common, deadlier form of breast cancer, a large European study finds.
By Annie Hauser
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FRIDAY, July 27, 2012 —Older women who eat high-carb diets might have an increased risk of a deadly breast cancer, a study of more than 300,000 European women concludes.
The results, which are published in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition,do not suggest that white bread and sweetscausebreast cancer, but researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, believe that this type of diet may be a factor in breast-cancer occurrence.
Over the 11.5 years covered in the study, the researchers found no overall evidence of a link between breast cancer and high-carb diets. But when they focused solely on postmenopausal women with ER-negative cancers (or breast cancers that lack estrogen receptors), the results changed. The women who ate diets that were high on the glycemic index (those that included more starches and sweets) were found to have a 36 percent higher risk of developing ER-negative breast cancer.
The reason? A high glycemic index diet is associated with chronically elevated insulin concentrations in the blood, a factor that has been previously linked to breast-cancer risk, possibly because insulin helps cancer tumors grow.
More than 12 percent of all women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point, the National Cancer Institute estimates. Of those women, about a quarter will develop ER-negative cancer. This type of cancer tends to grow faster and will not respond to hormone-based therapies used with ER-positive breast cancers. As a result, treatments for ER-negative cancers lag far behind those for ER-positive cancers, though doctors do see some success treating ER-negative cancers with chemotherapy.
Your Cancer-Prevention Diet
Although genetics and other factors largely determine whether you will develop breast cancer, research suggests that choosing the right foods might help prevent the disease.
Two studies, one from the University of California-San Diego and one from the Genesis Prevention Center at University Hospital in South Manchester, England, show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in starchy carbs might stave off cancer — and a host of other diseases. A review of 15 studies examining fruit and vegetable intake and breast cancer risk found that heavy fruit or heavy fruit and vegetable consumption — but not vegetables alone — resulted in a "weak" reduction of breast-cancer risk, researchers at the Imperial College London report.
The American Cancer Society recommends maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, limiting your alcohol intake, and consuming the widest variety of colorful fruits and vegetables possible to lower your risk. A few notable foods to try: broccoli, which contains phytochemicals that might prevent cancer; green tea, which fights free radicals throughout the body and therefore lowers disease risk; and whole soy sources, such as tofu and edamame, which some experts believe blocks body estrogen from negatively affecting cells.
TELL US: What steps do you take to cut your breast cancer risk? Let us know in the comments.
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