Study links childhood saturated fat intake to breast density

Consuming high amounts of saturated fat or low amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats as an adolescent is associated with higher breast density in young adulthood, according to a new study.

The research was published in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Breast density can be a factor in cancer risk and detection.

“Breast tissue is most sensitive to exposures during adolescence, when breasts develop and undergo structural changes, so we set out to investigate whether fat intake during adolescence was associated with breast density in early adulthood,” wrote co-author Seungyoun Jung, ScD.

The researchers examined data from a 1988 that examined dietary habits of 301 girls between the ages of 8 and 10. Nearly 17 years later, 177 study participants had their dense breast volume (DBV) measured by MRI.

Women in the highest quartile of saturated fat intake had a mean percent BDV of 21.5 percent compared with 16.4 percent for those in the lowest quartile. A similar difference in percent DBV was found for those in the lowest versus the highest quartile of monounsaturated fat intake.

"Our results are particularly interesting because diet during adolescence is modifiable, whereas most of the well-known risk factors for breast cancer, such as age at menarche and number and timing of pregnancies, offer little chance for intervention," wrote co-author Joanne Dorgan, PhD, MPH. "Adult alcohol consumption is the only adult dietary factor consistently associated with breast cancer risk."