Background: Experimental animal studies suggest that olive oil consumption, as contrasted to consumption of other fat types, does not enhance the occurrence of chemically induced mammary tumors, but human data are sparse. Furthermore, evidence is inconclusive concerning the role of food groups, as distinct from that of major nutrients, in the etiology of breast cancer in women.
Purpose: This analysis was conducted to evaluate and quantify the effect of consumption of olive oil, margarine, and a range of food groups on the risk of breast cancer.
Methods: Data from a comprehensive, semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire administered to 820 women with breast cancer and 1548 control women from the study base were used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and X statistics of linear trend for the consumption of olive oil, margarine, and a series of food groups classified in quintiles. Adjustment for the effects of reproductive risk factors, energy intake, and mutual confounding influences was implemented through unconditional logistic regression modeling.
Results: Vegetable consumption and fruit consumption were independently associated with statistically significant reductions of breast cancer risk by 12% and 8%, respectively, per quintile increase; no significant associations were evident for the other food groups examined. Increased olive oil consumption was associated with significantly reduced breast cancer risk (OR = 0.75 [95% confidence interval = 0.57-0.98] for more than once a day versus once a day), whereas increased margarine consumption was associated with significantly increased risk (OR = 1.05 [95% confidence interval = 1.00-1.10] for an increment of four times a month). The olive oil association was apparently concentrated among postmenopausal women, but the relevant interaction term was not statistically significant; there was no suggestion of interaction with menopausal status for consumption of either vegetables, fruits, or margarine.
Conclusions: Although major categories of macronutrients do not show significant associations with breast cancer risk in most studies, including the present one, vegetables and fruits are inversely, significantly, and strongly associated with this risk. There also is evidence that olive oil consumption may reduce the risk of breast cancer, whereas margarine intake appears to be associated with an elevated risk for the disease.