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Eating a Mediterranean diet reduces risk of breast cancer by 40 per cent

06-Mar-17
Article By: Sue Learner, Editor

Women who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, lentils, whole-grains, fish and olive oil, reduce their risk of getting breast cancer by 40 per cent, according to a new study.

The study funded by World Cancer Research Fund and published in the International Journal of Cancer, looked at over 62,000 women over 20 years, assessing how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet and how this affected their risk of breast cancer.

The diet was found to be particularly effective in reducing the estrogen-receptor negative subtype, which usually has a worse outcome than other types of breast cancer.

The Mediterranean Diet has a low intake of refined grains such as white bread or white rice, red meat and sweets, and although the traditional Mediterranean Diet involves moderate consumption of alcohol, in this study alcohol was excluded, as this is a known risk factor for breast cancer.

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, director of research funding at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This important study showed that following a dietary pattern like the Mediterranean Diet, could help reduce breast cancer risk – particularly the subtype with a poorer prognosis. With breast cancer being so common in the UK, prevention is key if we want to see a decrease in the number of women developing the disease.

“We would welcome further research that helps us better understand the risk factors for the different breast cancer subtypes.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK with over 53,000 new cases each year.

Almost 12,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented in the UK each year if nobody drank alcohol, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. For cancer prevention in general it is important to eat a wide variety of whole-grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables.

Professor Piet van den Brandt, lead researcher on this study at Maastricht University said: “We found a strong link between the Mediterranean Diet and reduced estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women, even in a non-Mediterranean population. This type of breast cancer usually has a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer.”

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