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Rye bread may increase breast cancer risk while oatmeal reduces risk

In a recent study, researchers reviewed the diet of thousands of women and found that high consumption of rye bread may increase breast cancer risk.


Eating food with nutrients is especially important for growing children, especially for girls going through puberty. During adolescence, the female body undergoes hormonal and physical changes, and so the foods eaten by young women at this age become extremely critical.  The main physical changes seen in girls at this age are an increase in breast development and the growth of hair on the body. If the cells of the developing breast are affected by inadequate or harmful nutrients consumed through diet, these women could be at risk of breast cancer in later life.

Since not a lot is known about the effect of foods in adolescence or in adult mid-life, researchers recently conducted a study on the effects of different foods on the ever-changing female adolescent body and in mid-life adults. They published their results in PLOS ONE.

For the study, they collected data from the AGES-Reykjavik Study of the Icelandic Heart Association, which had the same parameters. They used data from a total of 3,325 women who had a mean age of about 77 years. They collected data on food intake during women’s adolescence, midlife, and in their present old age through a food frequency questionnaire.

Rye bread associated with increased risk of breast cancer later in life

In the final assessment of the outcomes of the data, 97 women in total were diagnosed with breast cancer. Further assessments found a connection between breast cancer and the consumption of rye bread. For adolescence and midlife, they found that daily consumption of rye bread was associated with greater breast cancer risk. This association of rye bread intake and the increase in breast cancer was seen regardless of whether the consumption began in adolescence or during adult midlife.

Oatmeal associated with decreased risk of breast cancer

However, the study also found that frequent consumption of oatmeal had a strong negative association to the onset of breast cancer. Those who ate more oatmeal had a reduced risk of breast cancer. The authors speculate that the fiber in oatmeal may reduce cancer risk through multiple pathways.

In this day where the incidence and prevalence of cancer are so high, proper diet and exercise are vital. It is due to these reasons that research on dietary foods becomes essential to help reduce the onset of cancer through awareness.

Written by Dr. Apollina Sharma, MBBS, GradDip EXMD

Reference: Haraldsdottir, Alfheidur, et al. “Dietary habits in adolescence and midlife and risk of breast cancer in older women.” PloS one 13.5 (2018): e0198017.



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