New Research: Breast Cancer Low-Fat Diet

Friday, September 14, 2007 - 2:13pm

By Dena McDowell, MS, RD

According to the United States Mortality statistics in 2004, cancer-related deaths came in number two of all deaths in the U.S. In 2007, 26% of all newly diagnosed cancer cases were breast (176,436 new cases). And in 2007, 40,515 women died of breast cancer in the United States. With statistics as startling as these, researchers are searching for answers. There is a known link between certain forms of cancer and diet .

Diet and Breast Cancer

A new study called the Women's Interventional Nutrition Study (WINS) was published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute by Rowan Chlebowski, M.D., Ph. D and colleagues. These scientists recently revealed that a diet low in fat may reduce a women's chance of breast cancer recurrence. Over 2,400 post-menopausal women who were diagnosed with stage I breast cancer and treated by conventional methods participated in this study. The main goal of the study was to reduce dietary fat intake to 15 percent of total daily calories. Forty percent of the participants were part of a low-fat group and received intense dietary counseling, whereas the other 60 percent of participants were part of the control group and received nutrition information on low-fat eating without intensive counseling. Both groups started out eating 30 percent of their daily calories from fat (56.5 grams on average between the two groups). However, by the end of the five-year research period the counseling group reduced their fat intake to a mere 33 grams a day, whereas the control group only reduced their intake to 51 grams a day. After the five-year study period, the counseling group had a 24 percent reduction in breast cancer recurrence.

Low-fat diet reduces cancerous tumor formation

Previous research shows that low-fat diets reduce the risk of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer; however, this study showed of the 24 percent reduction, there was only a slight decrease in estrogen-fueled tumors. However this study noted a 42 percent decrease in non-estrogen fueled tumors. Researchers are now interested in learning more about the connection of low-fat eating and other factors such as weight loss (the counseling group lost an average of 4.6 pounds) and reduction of risk.

The Low-Fat Diet/Breast Cancer Take-Home Message

More research needs to be done to determine the exact mechanism of diet and breast cancer risk reduction; however, we do know that losing weight by cutting calories can reduce the risk of many health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. According to the American Cancer Society, every state in the U.S. except for one has at least 55 percent of its population falling into the overweight category. This is based on having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater. As our nation continues to grow, so do the related health problems. Losing weight will help reduce the risk of developing certain forms of cancer including breast, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Plan to Lose Weight

As this study shows, even a small reduction in body weight may reduce your risk of breast cancer recurrence. To reduce your risk of developing weight-related health problems, it is best to seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian to help with meal planning and calorie assessment . Other things to help promote a healthy life are to eat foods low in fats, eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables more often. Keeping a food log may help prevent over-eating and hold you accountable for unhealthy food choices. Adding exercise is also a great way to shed extra unwanted pounds and convert body fat into muscle. Losing even a small amount of weight will help promote a healthier body and reduce your risk of weight-related diseases.