The control group of a hospital-based case-control study on breast cancer was used to assess the relationships between education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and intake of selected macro- and micronutrients in Italian women. The study subjects were 2,588 women admitted to a network of hospitals in various Italian regions for nonneoplastic, acute diseases unrelated to long-term changes in the diet. Although relatively few differences were observed, less educated subjects consumed more linoleic acid and polyunsaturated fats than did more educated women. Smoking habits were associated with the largest differences in selected antioxidant vitamins. Significant differences were observed for beta-carotene and vitamin C intake, with an 11% higher intake of beta-carotene and a 12% higher intake of vitamin C in ex-smokers than in current smokers. Heavier alcohol drinkers tended to consume more retinol and iron but less beta-carotene than did moderate or nondrinkers. Thus the differences in macro- and micronutrient intake were generally moderate across categories of education, smoking, and alcohol consumption in this data set of Italian women. Nonetheless, they confirm the importance of allowing for these variables in analyzing the relationship between nutritional factors and disease risk.
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