Consumption of high amounts of saturated fats and low amounts of polyunsaturated fats may increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology.1

Patient nutrition and dietary factors have long been identified as playing a role in cancer risk. Factors such as tobacco smoking and environmental exposures are closely linked to the occurrence of lung cancer, but new evidence shows that consuming specific types of fat may also impact the risk of lung cancer.

This pooled analysis of 10 prospective cohort studies identified nearly 19,000 patients with primary incident lung cancer over a mean follow-up period of 9.4 years.

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High intake of total and saturated fat demonstrated an increased risk of lung cancer in the highest quintile vs the lowest quintile (hazard ratio [HR], 1.07 vs 1.14, respectively; 95% CI, 1.00-1.15 vs 1.07-1.22, respectively; P <.001).

High intake of polyunsaturated fats consumption, however, demonstrated a decreased risk of lung cancer in the highest quintile vs the lowest quintile (HR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.87-0.98; P =.02).

The increased risk associated with saturated fats was more pronounced in current smokers (HR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.13-1.35; P <.001) vs former and never smokers, and was higher specifically for the risk of squamous cell and small cell carcinoma more than any other histologic types (HR, 1.61 vs 1.40, respectively; 95% CI, 1.38-1.88 vs 1.17-1.67, respectively; P <.001).

The study also reported that substituting 5% of energy of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fat led to a 12% reduction in risk of lung cancer, and a 16% to 17% reduction in risk of small cell and squamous cell carcinoma specifically.

The investigators concluded that “promoting polyunsaturated fat while reducing saturated fat intake, especially among current smokers and recent quitters, may present a modifiable dietary approach to the prevention of not only cardiovascular disease but also lung cancer.”


1. Yang JJ, Yu D, Takata Y, et al. Dietary fat intake and lung cancer risk: a pooled analysis [published online July 25, 2017]. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.73.3329