Higher protein intake may help against breast cancer

Women with breast cancer are slightly more likely to survive the disease if they increase their protein intake, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers, from Brigham Hospital in Boston, analysed data from 6,348 women with breast cancer cases diagnosed between 1976 and 2004.

They found that there was a 16 per cent reduced risk of recurrence among patients with the highest (top quintile) protein intake. In the second quintile there was a 25 per cent reduced risk.

The findings suggest that, contrary to popular belief, there is no advantage in avoiding high-protein food for women with a history of breast cancer in the family.

Cancer Research UK advises that ‘research into the effect of dietary factors on breast cancer risk so far [has] been inconclusive and inconsistent’.

Instant analysis
This is a prospective cohort study looking at long-term recurrence of breast cancer in treated women and its association with protein intake.

Six thousand women were included in the study; BMI and insulin and oestrogen receptor status (all significant factors regarding prognosis and how a patient responds to treatment) were analysed alongside protein intake, looking at poultry, red meat, branched-chain amino acids and dairy consumption as the sources of protein.

Interestingly, higher intakes of protein specifically from animal sources were associated with lower rates of recurrence, with a 25 per cent decreased risk of recurrence noted (multiple levels of intake were analysed with lower intakes showing no reduction in risk).

At both five and 10 years, there was a reduction in risk of two per cent and four per cent respectively with higher intakes of animal protein.

This study is interesting as many other studies have suggested that higher intakes of animal protein are associated with higher incidences of cancer.

Take-home message: there is no evidence that higher intakes of animal protein in breast cancer survivors is associated with higher levels of recurrence.
TSA
Research score: 3/5