NEW YORK: Women with diets rich in vegetables, fruit and legumes may have a somewhat decreased risk of developing one type of breast cancer, a new study suggests.
The findings, from a large, long-running study of US nurses, showed that women with diets high in plant foods -- but low in red meat, sodium and processed carbohydrates -- tended to have a lower risk of developing certain breast tumors.
Specifically, they were less likely than other women to develop breast tumors that lack receptors for the hormone estrogen. Those estrogen receptor-negative tumors account for about one-quarter of breast cancers.
Of more than 86,000 women the study followed for 26 years, slightly less than one percent developed ER-negative breast cancer.
The risk, researchers found, was lower among women whose diets most closely resembled the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet -- an eating plan experts recommended for lowering blood pressure. It emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fiber-rich grains, legumes and nuts, and low-fat dairy.
The women who, at the outset, had the highest DASH “score” were 20 percent less likely to develop ER-negative breast cancer than those with the lowest DASH scores.
When the researchers took a closer look, it seemed to be high vegetable and fruit intake that mainly accounted for the link.
The results, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, do not prove that a plant-rich diet, itself, cuts breast cancer risk.
And in general, studies have come to mixed conclusions on whether diet habits are connected to breast cancer.
But recent research has been suggesting that the risk of ER-negative breast tumors, in particular, may be related to diet, explained Teresa T. Fung, an associate professor of nutrition at Simmons College in Boston and the lead researcher on the new study.