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Trans fats from processed foods increase ovarian cancer risk

Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat created during hydrogenation which converts liquid vegetable oils into semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil. Trans fat can also be found naturally in meat and dairy. Trans fats are common in cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked goods.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Scientists have identified a likely link between processed and fried foods containing trans fats and ovarian cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued the announcement on Thursday at the end of a study of nearly 1,500 patients suffering from the disease, the eighth most common cause of cancer death in women. Their findings were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Previously, smaller studies had suggested a link between industrially manufactured fatty foods and ovarian cancer but the evidence has been inconclusive until now, said IARC’s Dr Inge Huybrechts, one of the authors of the study.

“This is the first prospective study showing a relationship between intake of industrial trans fatty acids and development of ovarian cancer” added the scientist from the agency which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat that occur when oils are chemically altered to stay solid at room temperature which gives them a much longer shelf life. They are mainly found in fast foods such as fried chicken, battered fish, hamburgers, chips and fried noodles, margarine, and non-dairy coffee creamers, among others.

There were nearly 300,000 new cases of ovarian cancer in 2018 and more than 184,000 deaths worldwide. It is the eighth most common cancer type and the eighth-most common cause of cancer death in women.

Previously, dietary intakes of industrial trans fatty acids have been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Consuming trans fats has previously been shown to increase the risk of coronary artery disease. In addition, positive associations between intakes of trans fatty acids and prostate cancer and colorectal cancer have been reported in the scientific literature.

Dr Marc Gunter, the head of the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism at the International Agency for Research on Cancer said that the new findings are in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendation to eliminate industrial trans-fatty acids from foods.

“This study provides new evidence that reduction in the consumption of industrially processed foods including fast food could help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and many other chronic diseases including other cancer types that are related to higher consumption of industrial trans fatty acids,” Dr Gunter said.

Because the incidence of ovarian cancer is rising worldwide, prevention strategies are urgently needed. However, few preventable factors have been identified. They include reducing the intake of trans fats by reading labels and checking ingredients lists for partially hydrogenated oil.

Scientists have noted that the best way to avoid trans fats is to limit the intake of processed and fried fast food. “Instead, eat a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein.”

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