New findings show that eating a high-fat diet from the teen years speeds up the development of breast cancer.

Teensâ?? high-fat diets cause changes in breast tissue

Utilising a preclinical model, the findings of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program at Michigan State University research indicate that before any tumours appear, there are changes in the breast that include increased cell growth and alterations in immune cells.

These changes persist into adulthood and can lead to the rapid development of precancerous lesions and ultimately breast cancer.

High-fat diets linked to aggressive form of cancer

In addition to the accelerated breast cancer development, this type of diet produces a distinct gene signature in the tumours consistent with a subset of breast cancers known as basal-like, that can carry a worse prognosis.

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“Overall, our current research indicates that avoiding excessive dietary fat of this type may help lower one’s risk of breast cancer down the road.” â?? Prof Richard Schwartz[/su_pullquote]

“This is very significant because even though the cancers arise from random mutations, the gene signature indicating a basal-like breast cancer shows the overarching and potent influence this type of diet has on the breast tissue,” said Sandra Haslam, physiology professor in MSU’s College of Human Medicine and one of the lead investigators of the project.

“Cancers of this type are more aggressive in nature and typically occur in younger women. This highlights the significance of our work toward efforts against the disease.”

Itâ??s not about weight, itâ??s about fat intake

“It’s important to note that since our experimental model did not involve any weight gain from the high-fat diet, these findings are relevant to a much broader segment of the population than just those who are overweight,” said Richard Schwartz, microbiology professor and associate dean in the College of Natural Science. “This shows the culprit is the fat itself rather than weight gain.”

Schwartz has co-led research efforts – funded by a five-year, $2,3 million federal grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute – with Haslam since 2010.

The key is to avoid excessive dietary fat

Early evidence indicates that the fat, which in this case was saturated animal fat, could potentially have permanent effects even if a low-fat diet is introduced later in life.

Schwartz cautions, however, that this preliminary finding requires further investigation and doesn’t indicate with certainty that humans will be affected in the same way.

“Overall, our current research indicates that avoiding excessive dietary fat of this type may help lower one’s risk of breast cancer down the road,” he said. “And since there isn’t any evidence suggesting that avoiding this type of diet is harmful, it just makes sense to do it.”

Source: Michigan State University via ScienceDaily

Recommended reading: Are your children filling up on junk food while youâ??re not looking? and What to eat to lower your breast cancer risk

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