Diet may have bearing on breast cancer, studies show
April 2, 1997
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Dan Rutz
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Two studies offer evidence that what
women eat may help protect them from breast cancer.
Canadian researchers, writing in the Journal of the National
Cancer Institute, show that over two years, the breasts of
women on low-fat diets become less dense. High breast density
increases the risk of breast cancer.
It's too early to say whether the benefit of less dense
breasts will translate into a reduced incidence of breast
cancer, but researchers say it might.
A second study shows breast tissue can be affected by the
type of fat women eat.
Dr. John Glaspy oversees a two-year study at UCLA designed to
see what effect strict dieting -- plus soy and fish oil
supplements -- might have on keeping women who've had
recurrent breast cancer from suffering another relapse.
Glaspy has switched his patients from high-fat American diets
to a healthier blend of no- and low-fat entrees.
"There's promise that there's pay dirt here," says Glaspy. "I
don't personally think it's going to be the final answer in
terms of a treatment for breast cancer, but I kind of hope
along the way we eliminate 80 percent of our need to have a
way to treat breast cancer."
Glaspy points to studies of women in Japan, whose incidence
of breast cancer is one fifth that of Western women.
"When they migrate, they get the risk of the country to which
they migrate within a generation," he says. "That eliminates
the possibility that ... the Japanese women's genetics are
Now midway through the study, the UCLA researchers say the
study volunteers' breast cells contain less Omega 6 oils --
suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer -- and more
Omega 3s -- a healthy fat that may protect the breast.
The study, Glaspy says, has also documented that more
dramatic and quick changes occur in the composition of the
breast than anywhere else in the body.
Jane Stoll, one of the study participants, is hoping that
there's more to the study than encouraging laboratory signs.
Stoll and the others have exhausted all other conventional
treatments for recurrent cancer. They are now helping
researchers prove whether severe dietary change can actually
prevent the return of breast cancer.
"We don't know for how long -- nobody knows that," she said.
"But ... if I didn't do this, I think I would be in harm's
Within a year the UCLA researchers expect to know if the diet
helps women like Stoll. At the very least, Glaspy expects to
begin answering the question on most every woman's mind: How
can I prevent breast cancer?
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