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Ovarian and Endometrial Cancer

Cutting Dietary Fat May Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk
A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that a low-fat diet may reduce the incidence of ovarian cancer. Cancer occurrence was analyzed for 48,835 postmenopausal women participating in The Women’s Health Initiative. Ovarian cancer risk was not reduced in the initial years of the study. However, risk reduced by 40 percent during the second four years among women in the dietary intervention group. The intervention goal was to reduce total fat intake to 20 percent of calories and to increase consumption of vegetables, fruits, and grains.

Prentice RL, Thomson CA, Caan, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and cancer incidence in the Women’s Health Initiative dietary modification randomized controlled trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007;99:1534-1543.

Soy Foods Lower the Risk for Ovarian Cancer
A new study from the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that soy foods may lower the risk for ovarian cancer. The California Teachers Study cohort analyzed dietary factors and incidence of ovarian cancer among 97,275 women. Those who consumed 3 milligrams of isoflavones (a phytoestrogen found in soy foods) per day had a 44 percent lower risk than women who consumed less than 1 milligram. Typical soy foods such as tofu or soymilk contain, on average, about 20 to 50 milligrams per serving depending on processing. Other than isoflavones, no significant evidence linked any other foods or nutrients with ovarian cancer risk.

Chang ET, Lee VS, Canchola AJ, Clarke CA, et al. Diet and Risk of Ovarian Cancer in the California Teachers Study Cohort. Am J Epidemiol.  Advance access published on January 8, 2007.

Consumption of Dairy Products Increases Ovarian Cancer Risk
A meta-analysis of 21 studies that examined a relationship between dairy product consumption and ovarian cancer risk found that every 10 grams of lactose consumed (the amount in one glass of milk) on a daily basis increased ovarian cancer risk by 13 percent. The study found a stronger link in cohort studies than in case-control studies. (Cohort studies follow a group of people over time and are considered more reliable than case-control studies, which compare patients and healthy control subjects at a single point in time.) Skim, low-fat, and whole milk, yogurt, cheese, and total lactose (dairy sugar) consumption was analyzed in these studies. Previous studies have suggested that galactose, a byproduct of lactose digestion, may have a toxic effect on a woman’s ovaries.

Larsson SC, Orsini N, Wolk A. Milk, milk products, and lactose intake and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. Int J Cancer. Available at Accessed September 23, 2005.

Dairy Products Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk
A new report from the Harvard School of Public Health shows a higher risk of ovarian cancer among women with increased intakes of lactose, the primary sugar in dairy milk. The pooled analysis included 12 prospective cohort studies with a total of 553,217 women, of whom 2,132 developed ovarian cancer. The analysis found a 19 percent increase in risk for those consuming greater than 30 grams of lactose per day, the equivalent of three or more servings of dairy milk.

During the digestive process, lactose produces glucose and galactose. Galactose is thought to have toxic effects for the ovaries for some women, particularly those who do not readily metabolize and eliminate it. 

Genkinger JM, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Dairy products and ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies. Cancer Epidemol Biomarkers Prev. 2006;15:364-372.

Teen Weight Tied to Ovarian Cancer
Women who were tall and heavy as youngsters appear to be at greater risk for developing ovarian cancer later in life. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health analyzed data on more than 1 million women who were tracked for an average of 25 years. Girls with a body mass index in the top 15 percent of the group were 56 percent more likely to develop this type of cancer. The tallest girls in the group also had a higher risk.

Engeland A, Tretli S, Bjorge T. Height, body mass index, and ovarian cancer: a follow-up of 1.1 million Norwegian women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003;95:1244-8.

Plant Compounds Combat Endometrial Cancer
Consumption of phytoestrogens (weak estrogens found in plants) was associated with a reduced risk for endometrial cancer, reported the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. A case-control study compared 500 women aged 35 to 79 with endometrial cancer with 470 controls, looking at intakes of three classes of phytoestrogens: isoflavones, coumestans, and lignans. Women with the highest intakes of isoflavones and lignans had a 41 percent and 32 percent reduced risk, respectively. The highest risk for endometrial cancer was seen in obese women consuming the least amount of plant-derived phytoestrogens.

Horn-Ross PL, John E, Canchola AJ, Stewart SL, Lee MM. Phytoestrogen intake and endometrial cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003;95:1158-63.


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