Physician-Scientist Dr. Steven Quay, MD, PhD is calling for nutritional guidelines for adolescent girls to reduce processed and fast-food consumption during puberty to prevent future breast cancer.

His recommendation is based on recent research showing a link between consumption of a particular set of chemicals produced by the high temperatures used to fry or grill foods that have a high level of sugars and the induction of pre-cancerous changes during pubertal breast development. While the study was in mice, similar changes can be seen in adolescent breast development. A video explaining the paper and the basis of Dr. Quay’s recommendation can be found here: Breast cancer prevention video.

“While breast cancer treatment is one of the most advanced and successful protocols in oncology, prevention of the disease is the next goal, an outcome that would transform women’s health,” said Dr. Steven Quay, MD, PhD. “Decades ago, I formulated a hypothesis that the seeds of future breast cancer are sown during puberty, when the breast is undergoing development. Breast development during puberty produces a vulnerable window of several years of time. Any environmental insult, including excessive chest x-rays or the toxic products from fast-food cooking, can be amplified if it occurs during puberty. The understanding of this link between breast development and future breast cancer should be used to inform nutritional guidelines for adolescent girls.”

The fast-food toxins, called AGE products, were shown to cause atypical hyperplasia in mice during puberty when they were included in the diet. They also caused the developing breast stroma to grow faster. In women, this stromal proliferation can be seen by mammography as increased breast density, which is a strong, independent predictor of breast cancer risk. Women with the highest density are up to eight times more likely to develop breast cancer compared to women with the least dense breasts.  

Guidelines for school food programs should be developed to decrease AGE products in the lunch menu offerings as well as an educational program for pediatricians and parents on the dangers of fast-food during this vulnerable development window. These simple changes in lifestyle could have a significant impact on reducing the 250,000 breast cancers that are diagnosed each year in the United States.

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