Study says low-fat diet reduces risk of breast cancer recurrence

According to the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS), the results offer renewed hope for breast cancer survivors.

The study found that women who followed a low-fat diet reduced their risk of a recurrence during the next five years by 24 percent.

The study monitored two groups of women aged 48 to 79, for five years who had received treatment for early breast cancers.

One group received nutrition counseling to learn how to reduce their fat consumption, while the other group was merely told about healthful eating without fat reduction.

The first group decreased the fat in their diets from about 29 percent of calories to about 20 percent, eating an average of close to 33 grams of fat a day, while the second group averaged about 51 grams daily.

Close examination revealed that some women in the first group who consistently met the fat targets set, chose lower-fat types of cheese, red meat, poultry, added fat such as salad dressing and sweets.

The main reason that these women succeeded better at meeting the fat goals, however, is that they cut back more on high-fat foods, such as muffins, doughnuts, cookies, snack foods, dairy desserts, cheese, nuts, eggs, red meat and added fats.

The impact of dietary fat on breast cancer risk and recurrence, remains unclear, regardless of these results.

Different types of fat or various proportions of fats may have different effects, for example, omega-3 fats, found in certain fish, walnuts and flaxseed, may protect against breast cancer.

It is also possible that the risk from fat may also vary with a woman’s stage in life.

It is therefore important to know how much less fat these women ate and how they cut back; eating less fat may be only a part of the reason for their lower cancer risk.

Another major factor that could help explain the lower cancer risk of the low-fat WINS group is a higher consumption of vegetables and fruits.

A Swedish study has found that people who had a low-fat diet ate more vegetables, fruits and cereals, and these foods have lots of cancer-protective nutrients and fibre.

Also low-fat diets may cause weight loss, which would again lower the cancer risk.

Studies repeatedly link both overweight and weight gain with a greater risk of postmenopausal breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence.

In the Nurses' Health Study, large weight gains after a diagnosis of breast cancer correlated with a 64 percent greater risk of recurrence; smaller weight gains led to smaller increases in risk.

Though the jury is still out on this particular issue, there are many strategies that can be used to try and reduce the risk of disease in general, such as maintaining a healthy weight, limiting high-fat foods, exercising regularly, and eating foods that provide cancer-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals - vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.

And of course eat smaller portions!


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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