Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Controversy exists regarding the role of dietary fat in breast cancer etiology. We investigated the association of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and the ratio of n-6 PUFAs to marine-derived n-3 PUFAs with breast cancer risk in the Shanghai Women's Health Study, a prospective cohort study including 72,571 cancer-free participants at baseline.

Dietary fatty acid intake was determined using food frequency questionnaires. We used Cox proportional hazards analysis to estimate the relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association of breast cancer risk with dietary fatty acids consumption. In 583,998 person-years of follow-up, we identified 712 breast cancer cases. We found no association of breast cancer risk to dietary intake of linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, α-linolenic acid or marine-derived n-3 PUFA.

We found a statistically significant interaction between n-6 PUFA intake, marine-derived n-3 PUFA intake and breast cancer risk (p = 0.008). Women with lower intake (the lowest tertile) of marine-derived n-3 PUFA and higher intake (the highest tertile) of n-6 PUFA had an increase risk for breast cancer (RR = 2.06; 95% CI = 1.27-3.34) compared to women with higher intake (the highest tertile) of marine-derived n-3 PUFAs and lower intake (the lowest tertile) of n-6 PUFAs after adjusting for potential confounders.

The relative amounts of n-6 PUFA to marine-derived n-3 PUFAs may be more important for breast cancer risk than individual dietary amounts of these fatty acids.

PMID: 20878979

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