Premenopausal fat intake and risk of breast cancer

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Jul 16;95(14):1079-85. doi: 10.1093/jnci/95.14.1079.


Background: International comparisons and case-control studies have suggested a positive relation between dietary fat intake and breast cancer risk, but prospective studies, most of them involving postmenopausal women, have not supported this association. We conducted a prospective analysis of the relation between dietary fat intake and breast cancer risk among premenopausal women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II.

Methods: Dietary fat intake and breast cancer risk were assessed among 90 655 premenopausal women aged 26 to 46 years in 1991. Fat intake was assessed with a food-frequency questionnaire at baseline in 1991 and again in 1995. Breast cancers were self-reported and confirmed by review of pathology reports. Multivariable relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: During 8 years of follow-up, 714 women developed incident invasive breast cancer. Relative to women in the lowest quintile of fat intake, women in the highest quintile of intake had a slight increased risk of breast cancer (RR = 1.25, 95% CI = 0.98 to 1.59; P(trend) =.06). The increase was associated with intake of animal fat but not vegetable fat; RRs for the increasing quintiles of animal fat intake were 1.00 (referent), 1.28, 1.37, 1.54, and 1.33 (95% CI = 1.02 to 1.73; P(trend) =.002). Intakes of both saturated and monounsaturated fat were related to modestly elevated breast cancer risk. Among food groups contributing to animal fat, red meat and high-fat dairy foods were each associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Conclusions: Intake of animal fat, mainly from red meat and high-fat dairy foods, during premenopausal years is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Dairy Products / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Premenopause
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats