Background:

Plant-based diets have been associated with lower risk of various diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other cardiometabolic risk factors. However, the association between plant-based diet quality and breast cancer remains unclear.

Methods:

We prospectively followed 76,690 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS, 1984–2016) and 93,295 women from the NHSII (1991–2017). Adherence to an overall plant-based diet index (PDI), a healthful PDI (hPDI), and an unhealthful PDI (uPDI) was assessed using previously developed indices. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate HR and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for incident invasive breast cancer.

Results:

Over 4,841,083 person-years of follow-up, we documented 12,482 incident invasive breast cancer cases. Women with greater adherence to PDI and hPDI were at modestly lower risk of breast cancer [(HRQ5 vs. Q1, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.84–0.95); (HRQ5 vs. Q1, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.83–0.94)]. We observed significant heterogeneity by estrogen receptor (ER) status, with the strongest inverse association between hPDI and breast cancer observed with ER-negative tumors [HRQ5 vs. Q1, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.65–0.90; Ptrend < 0.01]. We also found an inverse association between extreme quintiles of healthy plant foods and ER-negative breast cancer [HR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.61–0.88; Ptrend < 0.01].

Conclusions:

This study provides evidence that adherence to a healthful plant-based diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer, especially those that are more likely to be aggressive tumors.

Impact:

This is the first prospective study investigating the relation between healthful and unhealthful plant-based dietary indices and risk of total and subtype-specific breast cancer.

You do not currently have access to this content.