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Nutr Cancer. 2001;40(2):87-91.

Dietary fat intake and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer: a meta-analysis of 6,689 subjects from 8 observational studies.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Oncology, Marshfield Clinic Cancer Center, Marshfield, WI 54449, USA.


The etiology of epithelial ovarian cancer is unknown. Prior work suggests that high dietary fat intake is associated with an increased risk of this tumor, although this association remains speculative. A meta-analysis was performed to evaluate this suspected relationship. Using previously described methods, a protocol was developed for a meta-analysis examining the association between high vs. low dietary fat intake and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. Literature search techniques, study inclusion criteria, and statistical procedures were prospectively defined. Data from observational studies were pooled using a general variance-based meta-analytic method employing confidence intervals (CI) previously described by Greenland. The outcome of interest was a summary relative risk (RRs) reflecting the risk of ovarian cancer associated with high vs. low dietary fat intake. Sensitivity analyses were performed when necessary to evaluate any observed statistical heterogeneity. The literature search yielded 8 observational studies enrolling 6,689 subjects. Data were stratified into three dietary fat intake categories: total fat, animal fat, and saturated fat. Initial tests for statistical homogeneity demonstrated that hospital-based studies accounted for observed heterogeneity possibly because of selection bias. Accounting for this, an RRs was calculated for high vs. low total fat intake, yielding a value of 1.24 (95% CI = 1.07-1.43), a statistically significant result. That is, high total fat intake is associated with a 24% increased risk of ovarian cancer development. The RRs for high saturated fat intake was 1.20 (95% CI = 1.04-1.39), suggesting a 20% increased risk of ovarian cancer among subjects with these dietary habits. High vs. low animal fat diet gave an RRs of 1.70 (95% CI = 1.43-2.03), consistent with a statistically significant 70% increased ovarian cancer risk. High dietary fat intake appears to represent a significant risk factor for the development of ovarian cancer. The magnitude of this risk associated with total fat and saturated fat is rather modest. Ovarian cancer risk associated with high animal fat intake appears significantly greater than that associated with the other types of fat intake studied, although this requires confirmation via larger analyses. Further work is needed to clarify factors that may modify the effects of dietary fat in vivo.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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