What we put in our body can play a pivotal role in our quality of life, including any disease we may develop. The debate over specific foods and cancer diagnoses continues to rage on among members of the health care community. A recent study conducted by Italian researchers has revealed that women who consume a diet high in saturated fat run the risk of developing certain types of breast cancer.

"In our study we confirm that saturated fat intake was positively associated with breast cancer risk," lead author from the Fondazione IRCCS National Cancer Institute in Milan, Italy, Sabina Sieri, told Reuters Health. "Saturated fatty acids intake should be as low as possible within the context of a nutritionally adequate diet."

Sieri and her colleagues from the Cancer Institute recruited 337,000 women from 10 different European countries. Each participant was asked to complete a survey gauging the makeup of their diet and certain lifestyle factors. After following the group for an average of 11 to 12 years, the research team discovered that 10,000 women had developed breast cancer. The women who did end up developing breast cancer were more likely to report a diet high in saturated fat compared to women who reported a healthier diet.

A diet high in saturated fat had a strong correlation with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) negative breast cancer, a determining factor for how fast a tumor will grow. Researchers also assessed each patient’s medical records to determine if the tumor would respond to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Again, women who reported diets high in saturated fats increased their risk of developing a tumor with receptors for estrogen and progesterone by 28 percent.

According to the American Cancer Society, 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosis are expected by the end of 2014. In spite of a dramatic decline in mortality rate since 1989, breast cancer still remains the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women, second only to lung cancer. Women who are overweight or obese stand a high risk for developing breast cancer. The more fat tissue a woman has, the higher her estrogen levels will increase. Women who add between 1.25 to 2.5 hours of light physical activity to their weekly schedule can reduce their risk for breast cancer by up to 18 percent.

Source: Chiodini P, Agnoli C, Sieri Sabina, et al. Dietary Fat Intake and Development of Specific Breast Cancer Subtypes. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2014.