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High-fibre diet reduces risk of breast cancer by 25%, research suggests

US study examined food intake of more than 2,000 women living with and beyond breast cancer 

US study examined food intake of more than 2,000 women living with and beyond breast cancer 

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The relationship between dietary fibre and roughage-rich foods and a reduced breast cancer risk has been explored previously, but often conducted within largely non-Hispanic white women populations. However, the association with specific tumour subtypes as defined by their hormonal receptivity or the multi-ethnic population is less well known.

This American study examined the food intake of an eligible group of participants previously included in a population-based case control investigation, the San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer study, which was conducted between 1995-2004.  

Analysis was conducted of data from more than 2,000 women living with and beyond breast cancer – including 1,070 Hispanics, 493 African Americans and 572 non-Hispanic whites – with a correspondingly similar control group of women without cancer.


The study assessed daily intake of fibre from fibre‐rich foods (beans,  grains,  vegetables and fruits) and examined its association with breast cancer risk while considering variables such as self-reported body mass index calculations, activity records, age at menarche and menopausal status.

The researchers found a 25% reduction in breast cancer risk with a high dietary fibre intake, where the fibre was found in items such as beans, bean fibre and grains. There was no reduction associated with the fibre from fruit and vegetables.

A further disparity in risk reduction was found for women with oestrogen receptor and progesterone receptor negative breast cancers, where the decrease was greater in comparison to women with receptor positive breast cancers.

Sangaramoorthy, M et al (2018) Intake of bean fibre, beans, and grains and reduced risk of hormone receptor-negative breast cancer: the San Francisco Bay Area breast cancer study. Cancer Medicine. 7, 5, 2131-2144.

Dion Smyth is a lecturer-practitioner in cancer and palliative care at Birmingham City University

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