The Mediterranean diet has garnered a long list of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now we can add one more to the list: reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed among US women (skin cancer is first). One in eight women will be diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer in their lifetime. Death rates from breast cancer are second only to lung cancer.
The most significant known risk factors for breast cancer are being female and growing older. Genetics play a role as well. But is diet a risk factor, too? Can changing the way you eat reduce the risk of breast cancer? Though studied extensively, the evidence linking diet and breast cancer risk has been inconsistent.
The Mediterranean diet with added extra virgin olive oil reduced the risk of malignant breast cancer by 68 percent.
The women in the study had an average body mass index of 30.4, and most of them had gone through menopause before age 55. Less than three percent had taken hormones. After five years, 35 women had developed malignant breast cancer.
The Mediterranean diet with added olive oil reduced the risk of malignant breast cancer by 68 percent. Women who are the diet supplemented with nuts had a slight, but non-significant, reduction in risk.
It is not yet known if the lower risk was due to the extra virgin olive oil itself, or if it was the olive oil in combination with the rest of the Mediterranean diet.
The study has its limitations. The number of breast cancer cases was small, and all of the women in the study were white, post-menopausal women who were at risk for heart disease and originally recruited for a study designed to study the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.