Diet Matters in Breast Cancer Prevention and Survival
Confused about what role fruits and vegetables really play in cancer prevention and survival? You are not alone. Recent news coverage of the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study on fruits and vegetables and breast cancer survival has left many people puzzled about the relationship between nutrition and cancer. That’s why PCRM has been busy setting the record straight about the important role that a healthy plant-based diet can play in cancer prevention and survival.
Most news stories about the WHEL study came with completely misleading headlines, such as “Study: Fruits, veggies don’t keep breast cancer away.” However, the study actually did find that consuming healthy foods—especially fruits and vegetables—plays a critical role in helping women survive breast cancer.
A WHEL report published in June in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that in women previously diagnosed with breast cancer, diets including at least five fruit and vegetable servings daily, when coupled with physical activity, reduce mortality rates by nearly 50 percent. The next report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July, showed that increasing fruit and vegetable intake beyond five servings a day did not lead to any additional benefit.
Prior reports from the WHEL study have shown that diet changes alter the hormones that influence cancer growth. Other studies have found that low-fat, high-fiber diets improve cancer survival. In fact, the Women’s Intervention Nutrition study showed that reducing dietary fat and boosting fiber cut the risk of cancer recurrence by 24 percent. And the China Health Study and other research on populations around the world have found that people on low-fat, plant-based diets have strikingly low cancer rates.
There are more than two million breast cancer survivors in the United States, and many of those women eat fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, consume too much fat, and lead sedentary lifestyles. If they act on the findings of the WHEL study, they can greatly improve their chances of survival.