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Plant-Based Diets and Risk of Developing Breast Cancer in Older Women

By: Justine Landin, PhD
Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Long-term adherence to a healthy plant-based diet may lower the risk of developing breast cancer for postmenopausal women, according to research conducted by Sanam Shah, MBBS, FCPS, MPH, of Paris-Saclay University, and colleagues. In fact, women who followed high-quality vegetarian and vegan diets for 21 years were found to have a lower incidence of breast cancer than women who adhered to lower-quality plant-based diets. These findings were presented during the 2022 American Society for Nutrition Annual Meeting (Abstract OR07-03-22).

“Our findings support that adherence to a healthy plant-based diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer. In contrast, an unhealthy plant-based diet may increase breast cancer risk, further emphasizing the importance of diet quality regarding cancer prevention,” stated the investigators.

Postmenopausal women from the French E3N prospective cohort study were followed for 21 years (n = 65,574). Self-reported dietary intake was determined at baseline and follow-up, and subjects were placed into groups according to whether their plant-based diets were healthful or unhealthful in terms of plant food quality. A Cox regression analysis was used to identify an association between diet type and clinical outcomes.

At follow-up, incident breast cancer was identified in 3,968 cases, which were stratified into histologic and receptor subtypes. Patients who adhered to a healthful plant-based diet were found to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer (P < .001). Healthful plant-based diets were also associated with a reduced incidence of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, progesterone receptor (PR)-positive, PR-negative, and ER/PR-positive breast cancer, as well as ductal and lobular carcinomas. Patients with unhealthful plant-based diets were found to be at higher risk of developing breast cancer (P < .001), particularly ER-positive breast cancer and lobular carcinoma.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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