By TAP Integrative

Sex steroid hormones, including estrogen, are strongly linked to breast cancer. Increasing fiber intake—which is known to inhibit reabsorption of estrogen and therefore decrease circulating estrogen levels—has been put forth as a possible method for reducing breast cancer risk. However, studies done on women enrolled in midlife or later have not found any significant associations between breast cancer risk and fiber intake.

Researchers writing for the journal Pediatrics in 2016 decided to try to determine whether increased fiber intake earlier in life could impact breast cancer rates later. To do that, the team looked at data from the Nurses’ Health Study II. 1n 1991, 90,534 premenopausal women completed a dietary questionnaire. Of those women, 2,833 were documented to have had invasive breast cancer during the 20 years of follow-up. In addition, in 1998, 44,263 of those women also completed a questionnaire about their diet during high school. Of those, 1,118 cases of breast cancer occurred during follow-up.

The researchers found that among all the women, higher levels of dietary fiber intake in early adulthood were associated with significantly lower breast cancer risk (RR for highest versus lowest quintile 0.81; 95% CI: 0.72–0.91; Ptrend=0.002). Intake of both soluble and insoluble fiber was associated with the reduced risk.

This study supports the notion that consuming high-fiber foods—particularly during adolescence and early adulthood—reduces breast cancer risk. This is in line with the American Cancer Society’s guidelines, which recommend consuming foods rich in fiber, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Following these guidelines early in youth may offer a protective effect later in life.


Farvid MS, Eliassen AH, Cho E, Liao X, Chen WY, Willett WC. Dietary fiber intake in young adults and breast cancer risk. Pediatrics. 2016;137(3):1-11.

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