Fruit and veg could reduce breast cancer risk
Fruit and veg ‘could reduce breast cancer risk by one quarter’
Harvard study of 90,000 women suggests eating plenty of fruit and vegetables in adolescence could sharply reduce the risk of later breast cancer
Teenage girls who eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could reduce their risk of breast cancer in later life by up to one quarter, a major study has found.
The research by Harvard University suggests that dietary habits in puberty and young adulthood could play a critical role affecting the chance of later developing cancer.
The study – which tracked 90,000 US women for more than two decades – found fibre from fruit and vegetables appeared to have the strongest protective effect.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with one in eight women developing it, and 50,000 diagnoses a year.
One fifth of cases are diagnosed before the age of 50, when the disease tends to be more aggressive.
Scientists believe that fibre may protect against breast cancer by blocking the absorption of oestrogen, which is closely linked to the disease
The new study suggests that puberty and young adulthood could be a particularly crucial window, when dietary habits have the greatest impact on the body’s hormones.
Researchers tracked women for more than two decades, examining their dietary habits and lifestyles in detail.
Those who consumed the most dietary fibre in adolescence had a 24 per cent lower risk of breast cancer before the menopause, compared with those who consumed the least fibre.
And their overall life-time risk of the disease was 16 per cent lower, the study found.
Those with the highest total intake of fibre in adolescence on average consumed around 28 grams of fibre – almost twice as much as those with the lowest intake.
This could be achieved by eating two apples, a banana, and a portion of broccoli and peas – in line with NHS “five a day” advice – plus two slices of whole-wheat bread.
Women with high fibre intake during their 20s and 30s also had a significantly lower chance of breast cancer, between 12 and 19 per cent less than those with the lowest fibre consumption levels.