Can a Low-Fat Diet Impact Breast Cancer Survival?

M.A., Health Writer

The list of potential benefits of eating a low-fat diet is getting longer, with the latest evidence appearing in a study in JAMA Oncology as part of the Women's Health Initiative. Overall breast cancer survival — the percentage of people alive after a period of time following diagnosis — was higher for women who ate a lower-fat diet than those who ate a "usual diet." Plus, fewer deaths occurred in the lower-fat group, not only from breast cancer but from other cancers and cardiovascular disease.

The research involved 48,835 postmenopausal women who had no previous breast cancer history, but whose dietary fat intake exceeded 32 percent of calories, according to a questionnaire. Then 19,541 of the participants cut their fat intake to 20 percent, and upped their consumption of (you guessed it) fruits, vegetables, and grains. The remaining 29,294 subjects in the control group ate as usual, their regular diet. Among all study participants, 1,764 were diagnosed with breast cancer during the "dietary intervention."

The authors found that the overall survival rate was higher among women who cut dietary fat and were diagnosed with breast cancer during the dietary intervention period. But, they said, that increase was partially caused by better survival rates from several causes of death. The bottom line, the authors said: A dietary change may be able to influence breast cancer outcome.

Sourced from: JAMA Network's JAMA Oncology