Adolescent Diet High in Saturated Fats Linked to Breast Density in Adulthood Interview with:
Seungyoun Jung, ScD, Fellow and
Joanne F. Dorgan Ph.D., M.P.H., Professor

Department of Epidemiology & Public Health
Division Director Of Cancer Epidemiology
University of Maryland What is the background for this study?

Response: Despite the strong evidence from the animal and experimental studies, the lack of association between fat intake and breast cancer has been observed in epidemiologic studies of adult women. However, the development of breast tissue, which induces rapid structural changes and makes breasts vulnerable to exposures, mostly occurs during adolescence. The effect of dietary fat intake on the breasts, therefore, might be greater at younger than older ages. However, only a few prospective cohort studies have examined the role of fat intake during adolescence in relation to the possible risk of breast cancer later in adulthood. Therefore, we examined the association between adolescent intakes of dietary fat and breast tissue composition as measured by breast density, a strong risk factor for breast cancer, measured among young women in the Dietary Intervention Study in Children 2006 Follow-up (DISC06) study. What are the main findings?

Response: We observed that higher intake of saturated fat and lower intake of mono- and polyunsaturated fat during adolescence are associated with higher breast density measured approximately 15 years later. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The take home message from our results, if confirmed, is that the diet consumed in early life is important and may confer risk or protective benefits for breast cancer later in adulthood. In particular, adherence to a healthy diet higher in healthy unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats during youth may contribute to lower breast density, and possibly decreased breast cancer risk. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: As a future direction of our study, it will be important to see if our results are replicated in a large prospective cohort study and are not attributable to other components in major food sources of different types of fat, and to identify possible underlying mechanism. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer incidence and cancer death among women worldwide. However, the established known risk factors for breast cancer, such as age at menarche, age at first full term pregnancy and age at menopause, are not readily modifiable. Although further research is warranted, our result is important as it suggests the promising role of dietary modification during adolescence for promotion of breast health as well as prevention of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases in adulthood. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Seungyoun Jung, Olga Goloubeva, Catherine Klifa, Erin S. LeBlanc, Linda G. Snetselaar, Linda Van Horn, and Joanne F. Dorgan. Dietary Fat Intake During Adolescence and Breast Density Among Young Women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, May 2016 DOI:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-1146

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

More Medical Research Interviews on

Last Updated on May 23, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD