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Trans-Fats Implicated in Breast Cancer

Apr 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP European researchers reported this past Friday that trans-fats may raise the risk of breast cancer. The study found that women with the highest blood levels of trans-fats had about twice the risk of developing breast cancer as compared to women with the lowest levels. "At this stage, we can only recommend limiting the consumption of processed foods, the source of industrially produced trans-fatty acid," the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Epidemiology.  Breast cancer is the second most common cancer killer of women, after lung cancer and will be diagnosed in 1.2 million people globally this year, killing 500,000.

Trans-fats or trans-fatty acids are made when creating artificially hardened fats, such during hydrogenization and were initially meant to be a healthful alternative for artery-clogging saturated fats such as butter and lard.  But, the process of making vegetable oil behave like butter made it as unhealthy as butter.  Trans-fats are being phased out of food because of their artery-clogging tendencies; New York and California have already banned trans-fats in restaurant foods, Canada and Britain have considered it, and many food companies have dropped trans-fats as an ingredient.  Trans-fats can be found in cooking fats, baked goods, snacks, and a variety of other prepared foods.  Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables.

Veronique Chajes of the French national scientific research center at the University of Paris-South and colleagues studied women taking part in a large European cancer trial and reviewed blood samples collected between 1995 and 1998 from 25,000 women who had volunteered to report on their eating and lifestyle habits and to also be tracked for years to see if they developed cancer.  They research group studied 363 women diagnosed with breast cancer, comparing their blood levels of fatty acids with those of women without cancer.  Chajes and colleagues found that the higher the levels of trans-fatty acids, the more likely a woman was to have cancer.  The researchers also found that women with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, being studied for their potential benefits to health, were not any less likely to have breast cancer; obese women are more likely to develop breast cancer, among other types of cancer; and high-fat diets are linked with breast cancer.

Meanwhile, in another recent US study, data from over 184,000 women revealed a link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of the most common type of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.  The study is the largest of three major studies to conclude that drinking raises the risk of breast cancer for older women, according to Jasmine Lew, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute and the study's lead investigator.  The research found that women who consumed one to two small drinks daily were 32 percent more likely to develop a hormone-sensitive tumor.  The risk increased to 51 percent if the women consumed three or more drinks a day.  "Regardless of the type of alcohol, the risk was evident," said Lew.

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