Sources of Evidence Linking Diet and Cancer

Laboratory scientists have known since the early twentieth century that various nutritional manipulations can influence the occurrence of tumors in animals. Despite this discovery of the relationship between diet and cancer in animals, widespread interest in the study of diet and cancer in humans did not develop until more recently when the large international differences in cancer rates were correlated with variations in dietary factors. In fact, investigators have found strong correlations between estimated per capita fat consumption and breast cancer rates internationally, raising the possibility that dietary fat may have an important role in the etiology of breast cancer. Other observations such as those demonstrating that migrating populations adopted, sooner or later, the cancer rates of their new host population strengthened the evidence that international differences were the result not of genes, but of noninherited factors, including diet. The study designs used to investigate diet and cancer in humans are discussed below.

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