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Breast cancer is a disease that will affect one in eight women during her lifetime, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. If a person is treated for this disease and survives, she wants to do all she can to keep the cancer from recurring. This includes making the necessary changes to live a healthy lifestyle, complete with a balanced diet and exercise.
Recently, researchers have discovered a possible connection between breast cancer and starch consumption, furthering the discussion of the role that diet plays in the development of this disease.
Scientists from the University of California, San Diego analyzed more than 2,600 women who participated in the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Dietary Intervention Trial, aimed at cancer survivors. The goal of UCSD researchers was to examine how increasing or decreasing carbohydrate intake influenced breast cancer recurrence, as the WHEL trial focused mostly on fruits, vegetables, fiber and fat.
They discovered that women who saw their cancer return had increased their carb intake by 2.3 grams a day, and those who did not experience a recurrence had decreased their carb intake by 2.7 grams, on average. Starches were found to be particularly important, as changes in starch intake accounted for 48 percent of all new carbohydrates consumed.
"The results show that it's not just overall carbohydrates, but particularly starch," said Jennifer Emond, M.S., a public health doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego. "Women who increased their starch intake over one year were at a much likelier risk for [recurrence]."
The scientists said that these findings suggest that there should be more research into the effects of starch on breast cancer.
In 2004, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study to determine if diet affects breast cancer risk. They determined that weight gain in middle life can significantly increase the likelihood of developing the disease,the first association between what a person eats and their chances of getting the condition.
Next, the scientists cited a Nurses Health Study, which found that intake of animal fat and high-fat dairy foods was associated with a 33 to 36 percent increase in breast cancer risk.
These studies all offer ideas on what not to eat to avoid developing breast cancer, but is there anything that can be consumed to help protect against it? According to the researchers, vitamin A may have some protective agents to fight off the disease.
"Vitamin A consists of preformed vitamin A from animal sources, and carotenoids found primarily in fruits and vegetables. Many carotenoids are potent antioxidants and may provide a defense against reactive oxygen species that damage DNA. Vitamin A also regulates cell differentiation, and may thus prevent carcinogenesis," according to study authors.
The American Cancer Society states that multiple studies have shown that breast cancer rates are lower in countries where less fat is consumed, but there have been no U.S. trials that suggest that a low-fat diet can lower the likelihood of developing the disease. What is known, however, is that a person's weight can affect their cancer risk. This suggests that consuming foods that are low in calories is a better choice for people who are concerned about breast cancer.
Finally, researchers have discovered that having even a few alcoholic drinks a week can increase a person's breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society recommends that women limit themselves to one drink a day, and men to two. Those with a family history of the disease, may want to avoid alcohol altogether.
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