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12-06-2011 | Surgery | Article

Low-cholesterol diet may aid cancer prevention


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MedWire News: A diet rich in meat, dairy products, and eggs, and thus cholesterol may contribute to an increased risk for a range of different cancers, Canadian study data show.

High serum cholesterol has been linked to the development of coronary heart disease, but its role in cancer is unclear, the researchers explain.

Jin Hu (Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa) and colleagues therefore used data from the Canadian National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System, a nationwide case-control study, to examine the association between dietary cholesterol intake and the risk for several different cancers.

Between 1994 and 1997, 19,732 men and women with histologically confirmed cancer of the stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung, breast, ovary, prostate, testis, kidney, bladder, or brain, or with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) or leukemia provided details of their lifestyle and diet in the 2 years prior to their diagnosis. A further 5039 individuals who did not have cancer (controls) also participated in the study.

The researchers report that a high intake of cholesterol (assessed by food frequency questionnaire) was significantly associated with an increased risk for the cancers of the stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, breast (postmenopausal women), kidney, and bladder, and with NHL and leukemia.

The odd ratios for cancer risk associated with the highest (>1880.27 mg/week) versus the lowest (<966.26 mg/week) quartiles of cholesterol intake ranged from 1.36 for NHL to 1.74 for cancer of the rectum, after adjusting for potential confounders such as age, gender, smoking, alcohol consumption, and total energy intake.

In contrast, cholesterol intake was inversely associated with the risk for prostate cancer, at an odds ratio of 0.66 for the highest versus lowest quartile for cholesterol intake.

There were no significant associations between cholesterol intake and ovarian, testicular, brain, and premenopausal breast cancers.

Hu and co-authors note that they only had an estimate of dietary intake of total cholesterol, and no information on various serum lipoproteins.

"Thus, the findings of this study should essentially be viewed as an indication that a diet rich in meat, dairy products, eggs (and hence animal fat) is an unfavorable indicator of the risk of several common cancers in the Canadian general population," they write in the Annals of Oncology.

"Limitation of dietary (animal) fat and cholesterol intake is therefore a favorable public health measure for cancer prevention," the team concludes.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Laura Dean

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