Breast cancer: Weighing the evidence for a promoting role of dietary fat

E. L. Wynder, L. A. Cohen, J. E. Muscat, B. Winters, J. T. Dwyer, G. Blackburn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


It has been hypothesized that a high-fat diet promotes the development of postmenopausal breast cancer. This contention is supported by data showing high international correlations between fat intake and breast cancer rates, modest positive associations with a high-fat diet in case-control studies, and animal model studies that have consistently demonstrated that dietary fat influences mammary cancer development at several stages in the carcinogenic process. A number of plausible biologic mechanisms have been suggested that may explain such promotional effects. In contrast, dietary fat intake is unrelated to the risk of breast cancer in cohort studies. The conflicting findings from cohort studies have created uncertainty regarding nutritional recommendations and breast cancer prevention. After reviewing key scientific findings that are relevant to this issue, the following conclusion is drawn: In the absence of data from dietary intervention trials, the weight of available evidence suggests that the type and amount of fat in the diet is related to postmenopausal breast cancer and that the inability to detect associations within populations (cohort studies) is because of measurement error and the relative homogeneity of diets measured. It is expected that the results from intervention trials will clarify this issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-775
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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