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Is that Cheeseburger Increasing Your Breast Cancer Risk?

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

There has been much attention paid to dietary fats and cholesterol in the last 30 years. Words not that long ago absent from the American lexicon (back when all eggs were happily fried in bacon fat) such as low fat, trans fat and “good” and “bad” cholesterol, are now the focus of some interesting and contradictory research.

Most experts would agree people need some fat and cholesterol in their diets. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, fat plays an important part of cell membranes, helping govern what gets into cells and what comes out.

“The body uses cholesterol as the starting point to make estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D, and other vital compounds. Fats are also biologically active molecules that can influence how muscles respond to insulin's 'open up for sugar' signal; different types of fats can also fire up or cool down inflammation.”

Past research from numerous sources have reported conflicting information. It typically boils down to a “quantity vs. quality” argument. Some research says it’s not the amount of fat you eat, but rather the type of fat. Others say how much dietary fat you eat matters greatly to your health.

While dietary cholesterol isn't technically a fat, it is found in food derived from animal sources: dairy products, butter, eggs, seafood, meat, poultry and lard. Intake of dietary cholesterol increases blood cholesterol levels, but not as much as saturated and trans fats do, and not to the same degree in all people, said the Harvard research.

A new study by researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University adds fuel to the fat and cholesterol debate. They discovered that elevated fat and cholesterol levels found in a typical American-style diet stimulate the growth and spread of breast cancer.

Dr. Phillippe G. Frank, a cancer biologist at Jefferson, wondered why the breast cancer incidence rate was five times higher in Western countries than in other developed countries.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.