According to a new study reported in the Guardian, cholesterol can stimulate the growth of breast cancer. Previous studies have shown a link between obesity and breast cancer. In overweight people, fat produces excess estrogen, which can stimulate breast cancer. Duke University researchers have found that cholesterol behaves similarly to estrogen -- specifically, a molecule in cholesterol called 27HC.
Experiments in mice showed that a fatty diet increased the level of the harmful molecule in blood. Consequently, tumors grew 30 percent bigger than tumors in mice on a non-fatty diet. The likelihood for tumors to spread also went up. In addition, human breast cancer tissue grew notably faster when exposed to 27HC in lab experiments.
It is the first study to find the elusive link between obesity, cholesterol and breast cancer risk.
The silver lining is that lowering cholesterol may help in warding off breast cancer. Other studies have hinted at a link between statin drugs and a lower risk of breast cancer.
A healthy diet can go a long way in reducing cholesterol in the blood. That means keeping cholesterol-rich foods -- meats, egg yolks and whole milk products -- to a minimum, and adding whole grains, which tend to move cholesterol out of the body. Regular exercise also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Over 232,000 new cases of breast cancer and nearly 40,000 deaths in women are estimated to occur this year in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.