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Studying Diet and Breast Cancer

The research question:

What is the relationship between diet and risk of developing breast cancer?

Research on the association between diet and breast cancer risk has been inconsistent, particularly how diet may affect a woman’s risk of breast cancer pre- and post-menopause. This analysis sought to understand how diet affected breast cancer risk in the California Teachers Study.

Meet the researcher:

Vikram Haridass is a 5th year PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of California, Irvine. He graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in Chemistry from the California State University of Long Beach. Vikram is particularly interested in how studies and statistical models can be used to decipher complicated data to allow researchers to identify novel exposure-disease paradigms.

What makes this project unique:

This analysis is an example of how original study data collected by the baseline questionnaire can be combined with new information about health—in this case, new categories to define dietary behaviors. For example, although the Paleo diet began in 1975, it was not popularized until 2002. Likewise, the Mediterranean diet was not well known until the mid-1990s. Researchers can now use these dietary definitions to categorize how participants ate back in 1995.

Using this strategy, the research team evaluated four different diet indexes—the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (aMED), Alternative Healthy Eating Index–2010 (AHEI-2010), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and Paleolithic index (PALEO) scores—to see if any had an association with risk of breast cancer.

Project findings:

Participants whose diets emphasized higher intakes of whole grains, vegetables and fruits, legumes, and nuts and seeds and deemphasized sweetened beverages and red and processed meats had a modest, decreased risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer. The researchers did not find any association between diet and risk of premenopausal breast cancer.

To read more about this project’s findings, please click here.

The questionnaire answers used:

Researchers used answers from 96,959 California Teachers Study participants’ baseline questionnaires.

From Questionnaire 1:

· Race

· Weight and height

· Alcohol and tobacco use

· Pregnancy, use of contraceptives, use of hormone replacement therapy

· Personal health, including diabetes

Diet questions from Questionnaire 1


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