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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Breast Cancer Research > Table 17: Dietary fat and breast cancer risk

  


Table 17: Dietary fat and breast cancer risk

  

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Eating a high-fat diet as an adult appears to have little, if any, impact on the risk of breast cancer. The randomized controlled trials, large cohort studiespooled analyses and meta-analyses done to date do not show a link between eating a diet high in total fat and breast cancer risk.

Although total fat does not appear to increase breast cancer risk, the type of fat in your diet may be important. This topic is under study. 

Eating a high-fat diet during adolescence may also play a role in breast cancer. Findings from the Nurses' Health Study II showed women who ate a diet high in total fat during adolescence had an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer compared to women who at a diet low in total fat during adolescence [1].

Learn more about dietary fat and breast cancer risk

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer.

Study selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials, prospective cohort studies, pooled analyses and meta-analyses with at least 500 breast cancer cases.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.    

Study 

Study Population
  (number of participants) 

Follow-up
(years) 

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women who Consume High Amounts of Dietary Fat Compared to Women who Consume Low Amounts, by Type of Fat,
RR (95% CI)
 

Total Fat 

Saturated Fat 

Mono-unsaturated Fat 

Randomized controlled trials  

Women's Health Initiative [2]

48,835
(1,727 cases)

8

0.91
(0.83-1.01)

   

Prospective cohort studies 

EPIC Nutrition and Cancer Study [3]

337,327
(10,062 cases)

12

1.08
(0.97-1.21)

1.14
(1.03-1.26)

1.07
(0.96-1.20)

Multiethnic Cohort Study [4]

85,089*
(3,885 cases)

12

0.94
(0.85-1.05)

0.93
(0.83-1.04)

1.01
(0.91-1.13)

Nurses' Health Study [5,6]

80,375*
(3,537 cases)

20

0.98
(0.95-1.00)  

0.93
(0.87-1.00)  

0.94
(0.87-1.01)  

NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study [7]

188,736
(3,501 cases)

4

1.11
(1.00-1.24)

1.18
(1.06-1.31)

1.12
(1.00-1.24)

Swedish Women's Lifestyle and Health Cohort [8]

49,261
(974 cases)

13

1.02
(0.72-1.45)

 1.12
(0.69-1.81)

0.88
(0.53-1.46) 

VITAL study [9]

30,252*
(772 cases)

6

1.43
(0.95-2.14)

1.47
(1.00-2.15)

1.61
(1.08-2.38)

Nurses' Health Study II [10]

90,655
(714 cases)

8

1.25
(0.98-1.59)

1.33
(1.02-1.73)§ 

1.10
(0.75-1.62)

Swedish Mammography Screening Cohort [11]

61,471
(674 cases)

4

 1.00
(0.76-1.32)

  1.09
(0.83-1.42)

0.95
(0.72-1.24)

Canadian National Breast Screening Study [12]

56,837
(519 cases)

5

 1.30
(0.90-1.88)

1.08
(0.73-1.59)

 1.23
(0.81-1.89)

Pooled and meta-analyses 

Boyd et al. [13]

568,549
(8,735 cases)

 

1.11
(0.99-1.25) 

1.15
(1.02-1.30) 

1.10
(0.83-1.44) 

Smith-Warner et al. [14]

351,821
(7,329 cases)

 

1.00
(0.98-1.03)

1.09
(1.00-1.19)

0.93
(0.84-1.03)

UK Dietary Cohort Consortium [15]

2,568
(657 cases)

 

0.80
(0.50-1.30)

0.67
(0.44-1.02)

0.91
(0.58-1.43)

Turner [16]

52 studies

 

1.01
(0.99-1.03)

1.00
(0.95-1.05)

1.00
(0.95-1.05)

Alexander et al. [17]

8 studies

 

1.11
(0.91-1.36)§ 

 
 
* Postmenopausal women only
 
† Relative risk per five percent increase in dietary fat intake

‡ Among women over 50, the relative risk for a diet high in monounsaturated fats was 0.45 (0.25-0.99).

§ Animal fat only

║ Combined cohort study results 
 

   References  

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  2. Prentice RL, Chlebowski RT, Patterson R, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of invasive breast cancer: the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA. 295(6):629-42, 2006.
  3. Sieri S, Chiodini P, Agnoli C, et al. Dietary fat intake and development of specific breast cancer subtypes. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014 Apr 9. [Epub ahead of print].
  4. Park SY, Kolonel LN, Henderson BE, Wilkens LR. Dietary fat and breast cancer in postmenopausal women according to ethnicity and hormone receptor status: the Multiethnic Cohort Study. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 5(2):216-28, 2012.
  5. Kim EH, Willett WC, Colditz GA, et al. Dietary fat and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in a 20-year follow-up. Am J Epidemiol. 164(10):990-7, 2006.  
  6. Byrne C, Rockett H, Holmes MD. Dietary fat, fat subtypes, and breast cancer risk: lack of an association among postmenopausal women with no history of benign breast disease. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 11(3):261-5, 2002.
  7. Thiébaut ACM, Kipnis V, Chang SC, et al. Dietary fat and postmenopausal invasive breast cancer in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst. 99(6):451-62, 2007.
  8. Löf M, Sandin S, Lagiou P, et al. Dietary fat and breast cancer risk in the Swedish women's lifestyle and health cohort. Br J Cancer. 97(11):1570-6, 2007.
  9. Sczaniecka AK, Brasky TM, Lampe JW, Patterson RE, White E. Dietary intake of specific fatty acids and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women in the VITAL cohort. Nutr Cancer. 64(8):1131-42, 2012.
  10. Cho E, Spiegelman D, Hunter DJ, et al. Premenopausal fat intake and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 95: 1079-85, 2003.
  11. Wolk A, Bergström R, Hunter D, et al. A prospective study of association of monounsaturated fat and other types of fat with risk of breast cancer. Arch Intern Med. 158(1):41-5, 1998.
  12. Howe GR, Friedenreich CM, Jain M, Miller AB. A cohort study of fat intake and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 83:336-340, 1991.
  13. Boyd NF, Stone J, Vogt KN, Connelly BS, Martin LJ, Minkin S. Dietary fat and breast cancer risk revisited: a meta-analysis of the published literature. Br J Cancer. 89(9):1672-85, 2003.
  14. Smith-Warner SA, Speigelman D, Adami HO, et al. Types of dietary fat and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Int J Cancer. 92:767-774, 2001.
  15. Key TJ, Appleby PN, Cairns BJ, et al. Dietary fat and breast cancer: comparison of results from food diaries and food-frequency questionnaires in the UK Dietary Cohort Consortium. Am J Clin Nutr. 94(4):1043-52, 2011.
  16. Turner LB. A meta-analysis of fat intake, reproduction, and breast cancer risk: an evolutionary perspective. Am J Hum Biol. 23(5):601-8, 2011.
  17. Alexander DD, Morimoto LM, Mink PJ, Lowe KA. Summary and meta-analysis of prospective studies of animal fat intake and breast cancer. Nutr Res Rev. 23(1):169-79, 2010. 

Updated 04/11/14