Breast Cancer: A Diet Low in Fat May Improve Survivors’ Stance

Consuming less dietary fat after being diagnosed with breast cancer may significantly improve a person’s survival rate, according to a new study.

If the cancer is found only in the breast and has not spread to other parts of the body, 99 percent of the people who receive such a diagnosis go on to live cancer-free lives for a minimum of 5 years.

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And, if the cancer has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes, 85% of patients with breast cancer have the same 5-year survival rate. However, this rate drops to 27% if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

For the factors that influence the outlook of a survivor, some studies have revealed that being obese raises the risk of breast cancer recurrence, even death, by 35–40 percent.

The study was led by Dr. Rowan T. Chlebowski, Ph.D. of the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA. Their findings were published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Considerably greater overall survival

Dr. Chlebowski and his team set out to re-examine the results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) randomized clinical trial, which indicated a preliminary association between better general survival and low-fat diet following a breast cancer diagnosis.

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The WHI trial then investigated 48,835 postmenopausal women who signed up for the study between 1993 and 1998. At the time, however, the trial did not offer insights as to whether the improved outlook was due to the eating habits that the women had before developing breast cancer.

Also, there was the possibility that a low-fat diet improved other health results that are unconnected to breast cancer. Therefore, the longer lifespans could have been due to these other results.

So, to explain these reservations, Dr. Chlebowski and colleagues conducted the present study which is also a randomized trial.

The researchers surveyed 19,541 women diagnosed with breast cancer who reduced their dietary fat consumption by 20 percent and increased the amount of fruits and vegetables that they ate.

The researchers also examined a control group of 29,294 breast cancer patients who continued their usual diets. The dietary interventions lasted for 8.5 years, on average, while the analysis carried out by the research team took place 11.5 years after their diagnosis, on average.

According to results from the study, breast cancer overall survival was significantly greater for women in the dietary intervention group than in the usual-diet comparison group.

To be accurate, the 10-year survival rate for the women who consumed less fat was 82 percent, compared with 78 percent in the control group.

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Moreover, fewer deaths were registered in the group that consumed less fat, compared with the usual-diet group. Precisely, 120 women died in the control group, compared with only 68 in the intervention group.

The researchers concluded;

“A dietary change may be able to influence breast cancer outcome, sustained dietary intervention is needed to maintain this positive effect”.


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