Recent studies have demonstrated that 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives being that breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women (American Cancer Society, 2018). Since 2000, the rates of breast cancer have been declining and researchers posit this may be due to better screening processes or possibly due to the decrease in hormone replacement therapy because it was associated with increased risk of breast cancer (Breastcancer.org, 2018). Although breast cancer has been linked to genetic inheritance, lifestyle factors such as diet and hormone levels also play a role in developing the disease (American Cancer Society, 2018).
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One study indicates that dairy, specifically in the Western world, is pumped full of estrogen and progesterone hormones, which may link a diet high in dairy to breast cancer rates (Ganmaa & Sato, 2005). Estrogenic hormones are more common in fats, so there may be a critical difference between the effects of high-fat dairy products, such as whole-milk compared to the low-fat version referred to as skim milk (Pape-Zambito et al., 2010). Research suggests that there are conflicting results in regards to the association between high-dairy intake and breast cancer (Hunter & Willett, 1994; Boyd et al., 1993), which makes it important to study the methods and possible explanations behind this controversial evidence. In this paper, I will analyze two research studies that provide opposing results in regards to the relationship between breast cancer and a high-dairy diet in order to understand why researchers may have found these varying outcomes.
Kroenke et al. (2013) hypothesized that a high-fat dairy diet, compared to a low-fat dairy diet, is more associated to breast cancer recurrence and mortality rates. To test this hypothesis, a team of researchers conducted a prospective cohort design and studied 1893 women that were a part of larger study (LACE) who already had early stage invasive breast cancer. These women previously went through cancer treatment and exhibited no evidence of recurrence or other types of cancer. The number and type of recurrences were assessed by health status questionnaires obtained annually, and mortality was measured using the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Cancer Registry (KPNC) data sources or using information from the participant’s family. Researchers collected data at two time points that encapsulated the women’s diets, measured by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Food Frequency Questionnaire, at baseline and at a 6-year follow-up. This measure asked women how often they ate dairy foods in the past year by specifically asking the participants to describe their daily, weekly and monthly eating habits. The questionnaire displays a medium size portion as an example and then asks the participants to indicate the size of their own dairy servings (small, medium,
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