Foundation News

How diet can influence breast cancer

Diet and exercise play a role in the development of a number of chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease. Cancer and diet have also been associated, but until now, scientists did not understand why. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina have found the likely link.

AGEs – or advanced glycation end products – are produced when food is processed. But AGE levels are increased by consuming processed foods high in sugar and fat, or those that are fried or grilled. But how do AGEs impact disease? They cause an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, resulting in chronic inflammation. In regard to breast cancer, the researchers found that AGEs turn on the biological pathway of a protein called estrogen receptor alpha in a breast cancer cell line model. Tamoxifen is an anti-estrogen medicine often used to treat estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. When tamoxifen was added to the cancer cells, their growth was reduced, but adding AGEs caused the cancer to grow again.

Stylized image suggesting a link between AGEs and diet. Illustration by Emma Vought, MUSC

The authors of this publication in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment think this relationship with AGEs  may explain the connection between diet and breast cancer, and that patients with high levels of AGEs are less likely to respond to tamoxifen treatment. Another reason to consider diet and exercise for healthy living.