We aimed to study dietary patterns in association with the relative expression levels of PPAR-γ, vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) and hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) in women with benign breast disease (BBD). The study design was combinative, included a case-series and case–control compartments. Initially, eligible BBD patients (n 77, aged 19–52 years old) were recruited at Nour-Nejat hospital, Tabriz, Iran (2012–2014). A hospital-based group of healthy controls was matched for age (n 231, aged 20–63 years old) and sex. Dietary data were collected using a valid 136-item FFQ. Principal component analysis generated two main components (Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin = 0·684), including a Healthy pattern (whole bread, fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, legumes, spices, seafood, low-fat meat, skinless poultry, low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds) and a Western pattern (starchy foods, high-fat meat and poultry, high-fat dairy products, hydrogenated fat, fast food, salt and sweets). High adherence to the Western pattern increased the risk of BBD (ORadj 5·59; 95 % CI 2·06, 15·10; P < 0·01), whereas high intake of the Healthy pattern was associated with a 74 % lower risk of BBD (95 % CI 0·08, 0·81; P < 0·05). In the BBD population, the Western pattern was correlated with over-expression of HIF-1α (radj 0·309, P < 0·05). There were inverse correlations between the Healthy pattern and expressions of PPAR-γ (radj −0·338, P < 0·05), HIF-1α (radj −0·340, P < 0·05) and VEGF-A (radj −0·286, P < 0·05). In conclusion, new findings suggested that the Healthy pattern was associated inversely with the risk of BBD, and this could be correlated with down-regulation of PPAR-γ, VEGF-A and HIF-1α genes, which might hold promise to preclude BBD of malignant pathological transformation.