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SABCS: Low-Fat Diet May Cut Breast Cancer Recurrence

Relapse rate lower in women whose fat intake accounts for 20 percent of daily calories

TUESDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- In women who have been treated for early-stage breast cancer, a low-fat diet may help reduce the risk of relapse, according to a study published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, as well as presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Rowan T. Chlebowski, M.D., Ph.D., of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., and colleagues randomly assigned 2,437 women from the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS) to a dietary intervention group or a control group and followed them for a median of five years.

The researchers found that the intervention group consumed less fat per day (33.3 grams, 20.3 percent of total calories) than the control group (51.3 grams, 29.2 percent of total calories) and had a six-pound lower mean body weight. Relapses occurred in 9.8 percent of the intervention group compared to 12.4 percent of the control group, a difference that was of borderline significance in a log-rank test and was significant in a Cox regression analysis.

The findings "raise several concerns that complicate drawing etiologic conclusions about dietary fat and breast cancer as well as making definitive recommendations for survivors," write the authors of an accompanying editorial. For example, the risk reduction may have been due in part to weight loss rather than a low-fat diet. However, "the totality of this evidence will help us better understand the fat-breast cancer connection and ultimately provide more definitive public health recommendations."

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