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Study Links Junk Food Diet During Adolescence, Early Adulthood With Premenopausal Breast Cancer

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A diet high in sugary sodas and soft drinks, carbs and processed meat is a recipe for early breast cancer in women, according to a study.

Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles found girls, teens and young female adults who eat a poor diet, loaded with things like hot dogs, fries, soft drinks and few vegetables, have an increased risk for premenopausal breast cancer later in life.

Their findings were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, based on data about the food habits of more than 45,000 women. The participants were asked to detail their dietary consumption over 22 years -- from adolescence through young adulthood.

Diets low in vegetables, and high in "sugar-sweetened and diet soft drinks, refined sugars and carbohydrates, red and processed meats, and margarine" have been linked to high levels of "inflammatory markers in the blood."

"Because breast cancer takes many years to arise, we were curious whether such a diet during the early phases of a woman's life is a risk factor for breast cancer," says Karin Michaels, author of the study.

Of the 45,000 women surveyed, 2 percent were diagnosed with premenopausal breast cancer, and 1 percent developed post-menopausal breast cancer. When the women were grouped according to their diets, those who had consumed a "habitual diet that promotes chronic inflammation" during adolescence had a 35% higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer. That risk climbed to 41% for women who at such foods during early adulthood.

"During adolescence and early adulthood, when the mammary gland is rapidly developing and is therefore particularly susceptible to lifestyle factors, it is important to consume a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes and to avoid soda consumption and a high intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and red and processed meats," says Michaels.

She adds that about 1 out of every 100 women in the U.S. develops breast cancer, but the "risk is different based on numerous factors, including genetic predisposition, demographics, and lifestyle."

Adolescent and early adult diet is just one of those factors, but unlike genetics, it is something that can be controlled.

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