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Low-Fat Diet Helps Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence

Researchers say the effect was strongest in tough-to-treat malignancies

MONDAY, Dec. 18, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- By reducing the amount of fat in their diet, postmenopausal women who've been treated for early-stage breast cancer may lower their risk for cancer recurrence, U.S. researchers say.

The study of more than 2,400 women, ages 48 to 79, found that the rate of cancer recurrence after five years was 9.8 percent among women who ate a low-fat diet (about 33 grams of fat per day) and 12.4 percent among those who ate a standard diet (about 52 grams of fat per day).

That means that, compared to those on the standard diet, the women on the low-fat diet had a 24 percent reduction in the relative risk of breast cancer recurrence, the study said.

The findings are reported in the December issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The most significant risk reduction -- 42 percent -- was noted in women on the low-fat diet whose tumors did not respond to the presence of the hormone estrogen. In women whose tumors did respond to estrogen, the risk reduction was 15 percent.

Breast cancer that doesn't respond to estrogen is called estrogen receptor-negative (ER-negative), and women with this form of cancer usually have poorer outcomes than women with ER-positive disease.

"Reductions were predicted in women with ER-positive disease because of the association between fat intake and estrogen levels, but the effect on ER-negative disease is, if verified, a surprising and potentially important observation regarding breast cancer and signals a possible new avenue of research," John Milner, chief of the Nutritional Science Research Group at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said in a prepared statement.

The study findings are based on an interim analysis of data from participants in the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS), the first large-scale randomized trial to demonstrate that diet changes can improve outcomes for early-stage breast cancer patients receiving conventional treatment. WINS was sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

More information

Breastcancer.org has more about recurrent and metastatic breast cancer.

SOURCE: U.S. National Cancer Institute, news release, Dec. 16, 2006
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