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Dietary changes could reduce risk of breast cancer

Category: Breast

Following research conducted in lab tests at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, NC, new studies have found a link between high cholesterol and breast cancer in post-menopausal women. The presence of a molecule that imitates estrogen activity could be traced to tumor development in breast cancer tissue.

"What we have now found is a molecule - not cholesterol itself, but an abundant metabolite of cholesterol - called 27HC that mimics the hormone estrogen and can independently drive the growth of breast cancer," stated Donald McDonnell, M.D., senior author of the report and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke.

The lab test, conducted using mice that exhibit similar reactions to humans, concluded that 27HC had immediate association with tumor growth and expansion to other organs in the body. However, the researchers discovered that the introduction of antiestrogen medications such as statins substantially diminished the effects of 27HC. Almost three-quarters of breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, and with the discovery of 27HC, McDonnell and his team have identified a mechanism that attributes high levels of cholesterol to the risks of breast cancer.

Additionally, the researchers deduced that the elevated levels of 27HC also combat the effects of antiestrogen remedies like tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors.

"Human breast tumors, because they express this enzyme to make 27HC, are making an estrogen-like molecule that can promote the growth of the tumor. In essence, the tumors have developed a mechanism to use a different source of fuel," said McDonnell.

These results suggest that the simple method of cholesterol testing, and staying on a healthy diet could help prevent the risk of breast cancer.

Reducing breast cancer risk
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are multiple ways to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Staying healthy and physically active, as well as getting regular screenings, are effective methods to decrease the likelihood of cancer. The CDC couples high cholesterol with excessive weight as determining factors in cancer development. With the release of this new study, those concerned about their cancer risks should also consider cholesterol testing to ensure that their levels are stable and healthy.

While not the only contributing factor, the American Cancer Society stated that body weight appears to be the leading link to cancer. Nearly one-fifth of cancer-related deaths are connected to obesity, with one-third of all deaths being associated with substandard, sedentary lifestyles and excess body weight. Being overweight can lead to cancers in the breast and liver, however, there is no concrete correlation as of yet and research continues to determine definitive links between obesity and cancer.

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