Vegetables and Fruits Double Breast Cancer Survival Rates

The Physicians Committee

Vegetables and Fruits Double Breast Cancer Survival Rates

July 17, 2007

Results from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study show 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 by nearly 50 percent. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake beyond five a day did not lead to further benefit.

A June report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that women who followed the five-a-day recommendation and remained physically active had a nearly 50 percent reduction in mortality risk during the seven-year study period.1 A report in the July 18, 2007, edition of JAMA shows that recommendations for even greater fruit and vegetable intake did not extend benefits beyond those achieved by the five-a-day group.2 The WHEL study included more than 3,000 women.

Prior reports from the WHEL study have shown that diet changes alter the hormones that influence cancer growth. In a sub-study of 291 participants, increases in fiber and reductions in dietary fat were associated with reduced serum concentrations of estradiol, bioavailable estradiol, estrone, and estrone sulfate.3

Previous studies have shown that low-fat, high-fiber diets improve cancer survival. The Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS) showed that reducing dietary fat and boosting fiber cut the risk of cancer recurrence by 24 percent.4

1. Pierce JP, Stefanick ML, Flatt SW, et al. Greater survival after breast cancer in physically active women with high vegetable-fruit intake regardless of obesity. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25:2345-2351.

2. Pierce JP, Natarajan L, Caan BJ, et al. Influence of a diet very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat on prognosis following treatment for breast cancer: The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) randomized trial. JAMA. 2007;298:289-298.

3. Rock CL, Flatt SW, Thomson CA, et al. Effects of a high-fiber, low-fat diet intervention on serum concentrations of reproductive steroid hormones in women with a history of breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2004;12:2379-2387.

4. Chlebowski RT, Blackburn GL, Thomson CA, et al. Dietary fat reduction and breast cancer outcome: interim efficacy results from the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006;98:1767-1776.

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