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Eur J Cancer. 1998 Nov;34(12):1852-6.

Breast cancer and the western diet: role of fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins.

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Oncology Department, St. Thomas' Hospital, London, U.K.


Epidemiological reports are inconsistent on the association between breast cancer risk and the dietary intake of either individual fatty acids or of antioxidant vitamins. It is postulated here that the inconsistencies are in part due to interactions between the two classes of nutrients at the level of the cell membrane, affecting their potential role in mammary carcinogenesis. In this review, the effects of specific dietary fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins on experimental mammary cancer systems are compared with reported epidemiological associations of the same agents with breast cancer risk in humans. An increased ratio of n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the diet inhibits the growth of the rat mammary cancer model. There is also evidence that members of the n-3 PUFA series can inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells both in vitro and in explants. Clinical trials of supplementary n-3 PUFAs in conjunction with a reduced fat intake have been proposed for breast cancer prevention. It is postulated that further dietary supplementation with vitamin E and a retinoid is likely to increase the effectiveness of such a diet. A study of this type allows better control of specific dietary components than prospective trials of dietary fat reduction which are presently under evaluation. In particular, it is suggested that studies focusing on a single nutrient often fail to recognise interactions with other nutrients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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