Low-fat diet in post-menopausal women increases breast cancer survival rates

A new study shows that post-menopausal women who stayed on a low fat diet for around eight years had improved breast cancer survival rates compared with women who were not on a low fat diet.  

The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute study was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting.

The study was based on data from the Women’s Health Initiative following more than 48,000 women aged between 50 and 79, who had not had breast cancer and had normal mammograms.

Around 20,000 of these women were randomly assigned to follow a low fat diet and received advice to help them reduce their fat intake and increase their consumption of fruit, vegetables and grains.

Around 1,700 women in the low fat group were eventually diagnosed with breast cancer, but the researchers found that these women were more likely to survive the disease compared to those in the normal dietary group (82 per cent compared with 78 per cent).

Researcher Dr Rowan Chlebowski says, “We found that a sustained low fat diet increased the survival rates among postmenopausal women after a breast cancer diagnosis. The study also suggests that women would need to remain on the low fat diets to maintain the benefits of the dietary intervention."

The researchers also reported that most breast cancer characteristics, including size, nodal status, and distribution of poor prognosis, triple negative cancers and HER2 positive cancers, were similar between the two groups of women.  However, there were fewer progesterone receptor negative cancers in the dietary group (28.4 per cent versus 33 per cent). In addition, researchers noted lower cardiovascular disease mortality in the dietary group.

BCAC chairperson Libby Burgess says the research is one of a raft of studies looking at the impact of different nutritional interventions on breast cancer.

“We’ve still got a lot to learn about how nutrition and diet may affect breast cancer, but this study seems to suggest that a low fat diet is something post-menopausal women may want to consider for improved breast health,” she says.



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