In the early 1980s, Doll and Peto estimated that about 35% of all deaths from cancer in the United States were attributable to dietary factors, with a margin of uncertainty ranging from 10 to 70%. Since then, several dietary factors, e.g. fat and meat, have been suggested to increase the risk for cancer, while other factors, e.g. fibre, fruit and vegetables, have been suggested to decrease the risk. The case-control and cohort studies have, however, given ambiguous results, and the overall evidence is far from conclusive. The major findings on dietary factors that increase risk have been reported from case-control studies, but have not been confirmed in large population-based cohort studies. Although the research in this area indicates that diet is important in cancer prevention, current knowledge does not allow reliable estimates of the numbers and proportions of cancers that could be avoided through well-described modifications of dietary habits. During the last 10 years, low physical activity has been pinpointed as a risk factor for cancers at various sites, especially the colon; however, the causal mechanism is still unknown. Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, is consistently associated with endometrial and gall-bladder cancers in women and renal-cell cancer in both men and women. As the prevalence of obesity was between 5 and almost 20% in the Nordic populations in 1995, 625 cancer cases (310 endometrial cancers, 270 renal-cell cancers in men and women and 45 gall-bladder and bile-duct cancers among women) can be predicted in the Nordic countries around the year 2000 to be caused by obesity. This implies that about 1% of all cancers in Nordic women and less than 1% of those in Nordic men could be avoided around the year 2000 if a healthy body weight could be maintained by all inhabitants.
The evidence regarding fatty acids and breast cancer risk is inconclusive. Adipose tissue fatty acids can be used as biomarkers of fatty acid intake and of endogenous fatty acid exposure. Fatty acids in adipose tissue are correlated owing to common dietary sources and shared metabolic pathways, which group fatty acids into naturally occurring patterns. We aimed to prospectively investigate associations between adipose tissue fatty acid patterns and long-term risk of total breast cancer and breast cancer subtypes characterised by oestrogen and progesterone receptor status (ER and PR).
This case-cohort study was based on data from the Danish cohort Diet, Cancer and Health. At baseline, a fat biopsy and information on lifestyle and reproductive factors were collected. From the 31 original fatty acids measured, patterns of fatty acids were identified using the treelet transform. During a median follow-up of 5.3 years, 474 breast cancer cases were identified. Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals of risk of total breast cancer and of subtypes according to quintiles of factor score were determined by weighted Cox proportional hazards regression.
After adjustment for potential confounders, factor scores for the seven patterns identified by the treelet transform were not associated with risk of total breast cancer, nor with risk of ER+, ER-, PR+ or PR- tumours.
No clear associations between the patterns of fatty acids at baseline and long-term risk of total breast cancer or ER+, ER-, PR+ or PR- tumours were observed.
A working group was established to evaluate the need for iodine enrichment in Denmark. Judged from studies of urinary iodine excretion and one dietary survey the intake of iodine in Denmark is low compared with recommended intakes. The occurrence of non-toxic goitre is relatively high; between 9 and 13% in elderly women. Furthermore, a high occurrence of toxic goitre has been seen in the western part of Denmark. On the other hand, an increased or a high intake of iodine may lead to hyperthyroidism and thyroiditis. The working group concluded that an increase in iodine intake in the Danish population is needed and the best way to achieve this is to iodize all salt. To avoid side effects of a sudden large increase in iodine intake the initial amount of iodine in salt will only be 2 ppm.