Young girls and women who eat diets high in fibre cut the risk of developing breast cancer, a new study has found.
Researchers at Harvard found that those who who ate more fibre in early adulthood, particularly from fruits and vegetables, were 16 per cent less likely to get breast cancer overall. This figure rose to 24 per cent in breast cancer before the menopause.
Every additional 10 grams of fibre that women ate each day during early adulthood cut the risk by 13 per cent, according to the study.
This amounts to around one apple and two slices of whole wheat bread, or half a cup of kidney beans and cauliflower or squash, according to the study published in the journal ‘Pediatrics’
13 ways to help prevent cancer
13 ways to help prevent cancer
Stopping smoking. This notoriously difficult habit to break sees tar build-up in the lungs and DNA alteration and causes 15,558 cancer deaths a year
Avoiding the sun, and the melanoma that comes with overexposure to harmful UV rays, could help conscientious shade-lovers dodge being one of the 7,220 people who die from it
A diet that is low in red meat can help to prevent bowel cancer, according to the research - with 30 grams a day recommended for men, and 25 a day recommended for women
Foods high in fibre, meanwhile, can further make for healthier bowels. Processed foods in developed countries appear to be causing higher rates of colon cancer than diets in continents such as Africa, which have high bean and pulse intakes
Two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day were given as the magic number for good diet in the research. Overall, diet causes only slightly fewer cancer deaths than sun exposure in Australia, at 7,000 a year
Obesity and being overweight, linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, causes 3,917 deaths by cancer a year on its own
Dying of a cancer caused by infection also comes in highly, linked to 3,421 cancer deaths a year. Infections such as human papilloma virus - which can cause cervical cancer in women - and hepatitis - can be prevented by vaccinations and having regular check-ups
Cutting back on drinks could reduce the risk of cancers caused by alcohol - such as liver cancer, bowel cancer, breast cancer and mouth cancer - that are leading to 3,208 deaths a year
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Sitting around and not getting the heart pumping - less than one hour's exercise a day - is directly leading to about 1,800 people having lower immune functions and higher hormone levels, among other factors, that cause cancers
2011 Getty Images
Hormone replacement therapy, which is used to relieve symptoms of the menopause in women, caused 539 deaths from (mainly breast) cancer in Australia last year. It did, however, prevent 52 cases of colorectal cancers
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Insufficient breastfeeding, bizarrely, makes the top 10. Breastfeeding for 12 months could prevent 235 cancer cases a year, said the research
Oral contraceptives, like the Pill, caused about 105 breast cancers and 52 cervical cancers - but it also prevented about 1,440 ovarian and uterine (womb) cases of cancer last year
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Taking aspirin also prevented 232 cases in the Queensland research of colorectal and oesophagal cancers - but as it can also cause strokes, is not yet recommended as a formal treatment against the risk of cancer
Breast cancer is the most common form of the disease among women, according to the World Health Organisation. The latest worldwide figures from 2011 show that over half a million women died of the disease that year.
Maryam Farvid, visiting scientist at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study said: “This work on the role of nutrition in early life and breast cancer incidence suggests one of the very few potentially modifiable risk factors for premenopausal breast cancer.”
To make their findings, researchers assessed data on 90,534 women who took part in a study into factors which influence women’s health, which began in 1991.
At the start of the study, the participants, who were aged between 27 to 44-year-old at the time, filled out surveys about what they ate. This was repeated once every four years.
“From many other studies we know that breast tissue is particularly influenced by carcinogens and anticarcinogens during childhood and adolescence,” said Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.
“We now have evidence that what we feed our children during this period of life is also an important factor in future cancer risk.”