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Poor Diet Linked to Denser Breast Tissue

poor diet

Women with dense breasts are slightly more at risk for developing breast cancer. Improving your diet may be one way to decrease your risk.


What exactly are “dense breasts?” You cannot necessarily tell just by look or feel. Dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more glandular and supportive tissue.

Unfortunately, those who have dense breasts are up to six times more likely to develop breast cancer. The dense tissue can also make it harder for mammograms to detect breast cancer as a tumor can blend in with the normal tissue.

Breast density can be inherited – if your mom has dense breasts, you are more likely to as well. But you can still reduce your risk by improving your diet from the “Standard American” or “Western” to one more aligned with a Mediterranean style of eating, especially if you are carrying around a few extra pounds.

In a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who ate high fat foods, processed meats, refined grains and excess sugar were up to 46% more likely to develop breast cancer. Contrarily, those following a Mediterranean style diet with high intake of fish, vegetables, legumes, fruits and olive oil had a 44% lower risk.

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"Generally, it is important (for cancer risk reduction) to maintain an adequate weight through life by controlling caloric intake, reducing consumption of energy-dense foods," said study co-author Dr. Marina Pollan, a cancer epidemiologist at the National Center of Epidemiology in Madrid.

Remember that diet alone may not be the sole reason for increased breast density. Exercise is an important factor and is one of the steps you can take to lower your risk.

If you do have dense breasts, talk with your doctor about the most appropriate screening. You may need either more frequent screening or a different imaging study that might include MRI to better detect hidden cancer.

Journal Reference:
Marina Pollan, M.D., Ph.D., cancer epidemiology, National Center of Epidemiology, Madrid, Spain; Stephanie Bernik, M.D., chief, surgical oncology, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Aug. 8, 2016, Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Photo Credit:
By GeorgeStepanek - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons