Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer in females and has become a major global health priority. This prospective cohort study investigated the association of dietary factors, including food items and dietary habits, with the risk of breast cancer in Korean women. Study participants were women aged 30 years or older, recruited from the National Cancer Center in South Korea between August 2002 and May 2007. They were followed until December 2014 using the Korea Central Cancer Registry to identify breast cancer cases. Among 5046 non-pre-diagnosed cancer participants, 72 breast cancer cases were prospectively identified. Participants with breast cancer had a significantly higher educational level (college or higher: 58.3% vs. 39.5%, p
= 0.01), were more likely to have ever smoked (22.2% vs. 7.8%, p
< 0.001), and were more likely to have a history of benign breast tumors (10% vs. 4%, p
= 0.02) than non-cases. Consumption of grilled meat conferred a significantly higher risk of breast cancer in all women (hazard ratio (HR) 1.77, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.09–2.85) and in postmenopausal women (HR 3.06, 95% CI 1.31–7.15). High-cholesterol food intake was associated with a higher risk in all women (HR 1.69, 95% CI 1.01–2.82). Irregular meal intake was associated with an elevated risk in all women (HR 2.19, 95% CI 1.20–3.98, p
for trend = 0.01) and in premenopausal women (HR 2.35, 95% CI 1.13–4.91, p
for trend = 0.03). Our findings suggest that grilled meat and high-cholesterol food intake and irregular eating habits may be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Further studies with longer follow-up periods that include information on portion size, hormone receptor status, carcinogen levels in grilled meat, and a classification of foods by source are required.
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