Dietary intakes of ω-6 and ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the risk of breast cancer

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Abstract

Experimental studies suggest detrimental effects of ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and beneficial effects of ω-3 PUFAs on mammary carcinogenesis, possibly in interaction with antioxidants. However, PUFA food sources are diverse in human diets and few epidemiologic studies have examined whether associations between dietary PUFAs and breast cancer risk vary according to food sources or antioxidant intakes. The relationship between individual PUFA intakes estimated from diet history questionnaires and breast cancer risk was examined among 56,007 French women. During 8 years of follow-up, 1,650 women developed invasive breast cancer. Breast cancer risk was not related to any dietary PUFA overall; however, opposite associations were seen according to food sources, suggesting other potential effects than PUFA per se. Breast cancer risk was inversely associated with α-linolenic acid (ALA) intake from fruit and vegetables [highest vs. lowest quintile, hazard ratio (HR) 0.74; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.63, 0.88; p trend < 0.0001], and from vegetable oils (HR 0.83; 95% CI 0.71, 0.97; p trend 0.017). Conversely, breast cancer risk was positively related to ALA intake from nut mixes (p trend 0.004) and processed foods (p trend 0.068), as was total ALA intake among women in the highest quintile of dietary vitamin E (p trend 0.036). A significant interaction was also found between ω-6 and long-chain ω-3 PUFAs, with breast cancer risk inversely related to long-chain ω-3 PUFAs in women belonging to the highest quintile of ω-6 PUFAs (p interaction 0.042). These results emphasize the need to consider food sources, as well as interactions between fatty acids and with antioxidants, when evaluating associations between PUFA intakes and breast cancer risk. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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