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The breast cancer-diet connection.


Willy you develop breast cancer? The bad news, according to the latest statistics, is that one in ten women in the United States will. What's more, the number of breast cancer cases in women over age 44 has been steadily increasing since 1960, by almost 2 percent a year.

The reasons for this increase are unclear. We know that cancer of the breast, like other cancers, is a disease of the body's cells. Abnormal, hyperactive growth occurs when cell division is not orderly. This growth results in a buildup of tumors. Despite extensive studies, there is no clear explanation of why and when breast cancers will develop. Probably a combination of heredity and environment is responsible.

A woman's breasts change throughout her life. Such factors as age, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breast-feeding, and menopause can cause these changes, all of which have been cited as risk factors in breast cancer, but to these another factor must also be added: the role of diet.

Some evidence suggests that a rich diet high in calories promotes rapid growth during childhood leading to early menarche, which is associated with high rates of breast cancer. American women begin menstruation three to six years earlier than Chinese women, who have a lower rate of breast cancer. An energy-rich diet later in life contributes to obesity, which after menopause enhances the growth of breast cancer.

Animal studies in the 1940s first showed a relationship between dietary fat and cancer. rats fed a high-fat diet and exposed to a carcinogen developed more mammary tumors than a control group developed.

In human populations, scientists noted a much lower rate of breast cancer among Japanese and Chinese women, whose diets were much lower in fat than the diets of Western women. They also found that immigrants tothe U.S. from countries with low breast cancer rates generally "adapt" to our higher rates.

According to Dr. Ross Prentice, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Research Center in Seattle, the incidence of breast cancer among women from Poland rose after they migrated to the United States. Dr. Prentice has collected information from 21 countries about breast cancer rates for women 45 to 69 years old and has gathered national data on fat calories consumed per capita. He found that the breast cancer rates among women who have migrated from Japan and China to the United States also increased, but more slowly.

The method by which fat appears to increase breast cancer is not yet understood, and the mystery intrigues researchers. Dr. Geoffrey Howe of the Epidemiology Unit of the National Cancer Institute of Canada and colleagues analyzed the original data to evaluate the consistency of 12 case-control studies of diet and breast cancer. Their analysis showed "a positive association between breast cancer risk and saturated fat intake in postmenopausal women." It also showed "a consistent protective effect for a number of markers of fruit and vegetable intake." Vitamin C had the most consistent and statistically significant inverse association with breast cancer risk. Vitamin A may also diminish breast cancer risk.

The researchers concluded: "If these dietary associations represent causality, the attributable risk [i.e., the percentage of breast cancers that might be prevented by dietary modification] in the North American population is estimated to be 24 percent for postmenopausal women and 16 percent for premenopausal women."

In a recent study in northwestern Italy, Dr. Paolo Toniolo of the Department of Environmental Medicine, New York University Medical Center, compared the diets of 250 breast cancer patients against those of 499 healthy women of the same ages. They found a reduced risk for breast cancer "for women who derived less than 28 percent of calories from fat versus more than 36 percent." They found a similarly reduced risk for women who derived less than 9.6 percent of calories from saturated fat or less than 5.9 percent from animal protein.

Dr. Peter Greenwald, the director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Prevention and Contro, advises, "Things that are prudent to do while the research continues are cut down on fat to less than 30 percent of calories; avoid obesity; and eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, and grains.

"We have the epidemiological data that supports the idea that you ought to cut down on the fat in your diet--thaths especially for postmenopausal women," Dr. Greenwald says. "If we had the breast cancer rate of Japan, instead of having 44,000 deaths we might have only 8,000 to 10,000 deaths per year."

While indicting dietary fats, researchers are also finding evidence that some foods may protect against breast cancer. Dr. Pieter van't Veer of the Toxicology and Nutrition Institute, Zeist, the Netherlands, and colleagues found a lower consumption of fermented milk products (predominatly yougurt and buttermilk) among 133 breast cancer cases as compared to a control population. They also found "a statistically significant decrease in breast cancer risk" ofr an increase intake of Gouda cheese. Their results "support the hypothesis that high consumption of fermented milk products may protect against breast cancer."

Dr. Tim Barnes, an associate professor in pharmacology and biochemistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been studying soybeans' possible role in preventing breast cancer. His research group has found that rats fed soybean-containing diets developed significantly fewer mammary tumors than rats in a control group.

Soybeans contain large amounts of phytoestroges, chemical compounds that compete with estradiol for estrogen receptors in breast tissue. Abnormal estrogen levels are known as risk factors for breast cancer. Whene phytoestrogens block estrogen cell receptors, the harmful effect of this hormone is minimalized. Soybeans are the most practical source of large amounts of phytoestrogens in the human diet.

Dr. Barnes became interested in soybeans because of cross-cultural studies showing lower rates of breast cancer in Oriental women who consume more soytean products. In the researchers' next experiments, they will extract phytoestrogens from soybeans and administer them to animals. The researchers hope to determine whether the phytoestrogens work as cancer preventives at the initiation stage of breast cancer or as anti-promoters at the growth stage, or possibly both. They also plaan to investigate the different varieties of soybeans--of which there are some 1,500 in China--and to analyze the various soybean products, such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and miso.

Self-Control Chili

(Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons polyunsaturated vegetabel oil 3 cups cooked soybeans, soaked overnight and ground 1 large onion, choppedf 1 clove garlic, minced 1 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon cumin seed 6 teaspoons (or more) chili powder 2 medium cans tomatoes 3 cups cooked whole soybeans or 3 cups cooked chili beans or 1 1/2 cups each

In large skillet combine oil, ground soybeans, onion, and garlic, and brown lightly. Transfer to large pot. Add oregano, cumin seed, chili powder, tomatoes, and whole portion of soybeans. Cover with water and bring to boil; lower heat and simmer at least 1 hour.

Tex Mex Taters

(Makes 1 1/2 cups sauce)

1 package (10.5 oz.)Mori-Nu Tofu, Silken/Soft, drained 1/2 teaspoon chili powder 2-1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese 3 tablespoons canned green chilies, chopped 1/8 cup chopped cilantro 6 medium baked potatoes Dash cayenne pepper, if desired 1/3 cup tomotoes, diced, for garnish 1/3 cup onion, diced, for garnish

In blender of food processor, whip together tofu and chili powder. Transfer to medium saucepan. Add cheese, chilies, and cilantro. Heat until all cheese is melted. Stir frequently.

Spoon hot sauce over hot split baked potato. Top with cayenne, tomatoes, and onions. Serve immediately.

"Ice Cream"

(Makes 3 cups)

1 package tofu, drained 1/2 teaspoon sweetener, if desired 2 cups frozen strawberries 2 teaspoons berry-flavored diet drink powder Combine all ingredients in blender and mix well. Serve immediately.

Cream of Broccoli-Cauliflower

Soup with Curry

(Makes 5 servings)

2 tablespoons polyunsaturated margarine 1-1/2 cups chopped onion 1 rounded tablespoon minced fresh garlic 3-1/2 cups defatted low-sodium chicken stock 1/2 teaspoon thyme 2 large bay leaves 1/8 cup finely chopped parsley 5 cups broccoli florests 2 cups cauliflower florets 1 package (10.5 oz.) Mori-Nu Tofu, Silken/soft, drained 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder Salt, id desired

In medium soup pot, melt margarine. Saute onions and garlic over moderate heat 5 minutes.

Add chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, broccoli, and cauliuflower. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender. Strain vegetables. Remove bay leaf.

In blender or food processor, puree tofu, vegetables, and small amount of soup stock.

Whisk vegetable-tofu puree back into soup stock. Add pepper and curry powder. Add salt to taste.

Heat soup again, stir, and serve hot.

Eggless Egg Salad

(Makes 3 servings)

1 package (10.5 oz.) Mori-Nu Tofu, Silken/Firm, drained 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 2-1/2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard 1 teaspoon honey 1/2 teaspoon turmeric 2 tablespoons diced celery 2 tablespoons diced onion 1 teaspon chopped parsley 1/8 scant teaspoon white pepper Dash paprika

Crumble tofu into small mixing bowl. Set aside.

In separate bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, honey, and turmeric. Mix thoroughly and pour over crumbled tofu.

Add celery, onion, parsley, pepper, and paprika. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Note: Try Eggless Egg Salad in pita bread lined with fresh greenery.

Pumpkin Pie

(Makes 1 9"pie)

2 packages (10.5 oz.)Mori-Nu Tofu, Silken/Soft, drained 2 egg whites 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin, solid pack, nothing added 1/2 cup sugar Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1 9" pie shell, unbaked

Combine all ingredients and whip until thoroughly blended.

Pour into pie shell. Bake 15 minutes in preheated 425 degrees F. oven. Bake an additional 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Cool, slice, and serve.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Jaskiewicz, Jerzy; Kreiter, Ted
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:Marilyn Quayle: family, fitness and a breast cancer crusade.
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