Short-term famine may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer say researchers based on findings from a new study. Researchers found women who experienced a short, but severe decrease in food intake during the 1944-1945 Dutch famine were more likely to develop breast cancer than women not affected by the famine.
Approximately 15,000 women between ages 2 and 33 during the Dutch famine participated in the Dutch breast cancer screening program between 1983 and 1986. The women responded to a questionnaire on weight loss, hunger and cold during the famine.
Researchers found as severity of famine increases, the risk for breast cancer increases. Women who experienced severe famine had a 48-percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who did not experience famine. The risk of breast cancer was also highest among those women who were between ages 2 and 9 during the famine and for women who never gave birth.
In the past, animal studies have shown cutting calories by a third to a half over a lifetime prevents various cancers. However, the implications of short-term food restriction are widely unknown.