Trans Fats Linked to Breast Cancer Risk

According to a study conducted in France, high levels of trans fats in the blood contributed to an increased risk of invasive breast cancer. Full details of the study were recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women in the United States. Ongoing research has investigated the effect of diet on risk for developing breast cancer. Many studies conducted on animals as well as observational studies conducted on human populations suggest that a high-fat diet may contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer among menopausal women. However, studies addressing diets lower in fat have failed to show a reduction in breast cancer risk.

Trans fats were developed in the 1900s and are added to foods to extend their shelf-life. A common example of a trans fat is Crisco®, or shortening, which was first developed in 1911. Previous studies have shown that consumption of trans fats may elevate “bad cholesterol” levels, which may lead to an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

In the current study, researchers assessed the association between dietary fat intake and breast cancer risk among 19,934 European women. Each woman provided a blood sample and completed a questionnaire regarding her dietary history. During an average of seven years’ follow-up, 363 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Other women of similar age, menopausal status, and similar blood results who did not develop breast cancer were compared with the women who did develop cancer.

  • Results of the study revealed that increasing levels of fatty acids present in blood were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, specifically among patients found to have high levels of trans fats.
  • However, other forms of fats, such as monounsaturated fats, were not found to contribute to breast cancer risk.

Researchers concluded that an increased breast cancer risk was associated with increasing levels of trans fats, which may indicate a high intake of industrially processed foods. Women concerned about reducing their risk of breast cancer through dietary measures may wish to consult their healthcare provider.

Reference: Chajes, V., Thiebaut, A., Rotival, M., et al. Association between serum trans monounsaturated fatty acids and breast cancer risk in the E3N-EPIC study. American Journal of Epidemiology [early online publication]. April 4, 2008.

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