An interdisciplinary research team from University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to measure the impact of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables on the breast cancer risk of lactating women.
In the research, called the New Moms Wellness Study, environmental toxicologist Kathleen Arcaro, nutritionist Lindiwe Sibeko and cancer epidemiologist Susan Sturgeon will use breast milk to assess whether eating at least eight to 10 daily servings of deeply pigmented and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables reduces biomarkers of breast cancer risk.
"There is a lot of interest in the possibility that an increase in fruits and vegetables decreases breast cancer risk," says Sturgeon, professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. "But it's not fully established, and it's difficult to measure."
The three lead investigators point to many advantages and benefits of targeting young mothers, a potentially "highly motivated population," in their study.
Breast milk provides access to the breast microenvironment and breast epithelial cells to non-invasively assess the diet intervention, which may be more successful at reversing the detrimental molecular changes associated with puberty and pregnancy in younger than in older women.