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Saturated fats may foster lung cancer.

Lung cancer claims more lives in the United States than any other malignancy. Though smoking poses the single greatest risk, studies have suggested that other factors, including dietary fat, may predispose people to lung cancer. But because most such studies contained large numbers of smokers, data on diet's role have proved confusing at best (SN: 10/12/91, p.237).

Now, researchers with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and the Missouri Department of Health in Columbia have entered the fray with an analysis of lung-cancer risks in non-smokers. While reinforcing concerns about fat, their study highlights several new risks and contradicts previously reported associations with factors such as dietary cholesterol.

Michael C.R. Alavanja and his coworkers surveyed 1,450 female non-smokers age 30 to 84. Of these, 429 had been diagnosed with lung cancer between 1986 and 1991. The researchers interviewed each of these women at least once and surveyed in detail their eating habits four years previously (before any cancer might have changed consumption patterns).

The 20 percent of women who ate the most saturated fat faced more than six times the risk of developing lung cancer as the 20 percent who ate the least. This rate "was greater than expected," based on earlier studies, Alavanja's team reports in the Dec. 1 JOURNAL of THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE.

Moreover, in women with high-saturated-fat diets, the risk of adenocarcinoma - a cancer not strongly linked to smoking but accounting for half the cancers in this study-was more than 11 times the rate observed in women with diets low in this fat.

While previous studies had hinted at a protective effect of fruits and vegetables, the new study found that the more citrus fruit and juice a woman consumed, the greater her chance of developing lung cancer. The study also identified a new class of protective foods: Women eating the most beans and peas had a 40 percent lower lung-cancer risk than those eating the least.

Though fat is an established tumor promoter in animals, no study - even this one - has proved that fat affects lung-cancer risk, notes Laurence N. Kolonel of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii in Honolulu. Indeed, he notes in an editorial accompanying the new paper, fat could serve merely as a marker for some other risk, such as the carcinogenic heterocyclic amines that form when red meat is cooked
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Title Annotation:saturated fat in diet linked to increased lung cancer risk among nonsmoking women
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 4, 1993
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