More Fiber May Mean Lower Breast Cancer Risk Later
Start eating vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains early in life, experts say
By Amy Norton
MONDAY, Feb. 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Teenage girls who get plenty of fiber in their diets may have a lower risk of breast cancer later in life, a new, large study suggests.
The study, published online Feb. 1 in the journal Pediatrics, does not prove that fiber, itself, helps prevent breast cancer.
But researchers said it offers some of the first strong evidence that fiber consumption is linked to breast cancer risk, and it hints that the teen years could be particularly important.
Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.
Most past studies have failed to uncover a correlation between fiber and breast cancer risk. But in just the past year, a few have suggested there may be some connection after all, according to Dr. Kathleen Harnden, co-author of an editorial published with the study.
"These new findings add to evidence that fiber may be protective for some women, and that fiber intake at a certain time in life may be important," said Harnden, a hematology-oncology fellow at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
According to Harnden, it "makes sense biologically" that fiber intake during the teen years might matter. "That's the time in life when the breasts are developing," she said. "It's also when body composition is developing."
Body composition is important, she noted, because obesity has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause.
The new findings are based on more than 44,000 U.S. female nurses who were mostly in their 30s and 40s at the outset of the study. The women were surveyed about their diets -- going back to high school -- and other lifestyle habits. Over the next 20 years, slightly more than 1,000 women developed breast cancer.
Overall, the study found, women who had eaten more fiber as young adults had a lower breast cancer risk. Those who'd been in the top 20 percent for fiber intake as young adults were 19 percent less likely to develop the disease than women in the bottom 20 percent.