Older women with breast cancer may live longer with low-fat diets

Older women who go on a low-fat diet may likely live longer if they develop breast cancer, according to the results of a new study.

The study shows that 82 percent of women who went on a low-fat diet were still alive a decade after being diagnosed with breast cancer, as to 78 percent who stuck to higher-fat diets.

“This was the first time we had examined the deaths after breast cancer among this group,” said Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute medical oncologist Dr. Rowan Chlebowski. “We found that a sustained low fat diet increased the survival rates among post-menopausal women after a breast cancer diagnosis.” And while the difference above was small, he added that his research “suggests that women would need to remain on the low fat diets to maintain the benefits of the dietary intervention.”

The study involved close to 50,000 post-menopausal women aged 50 to 79 who were not previously diagnosed with breast cancer. 19,541 of those women were asked to go on a low-fat diet, with a nutritionist coaching them to reduce their fat intake to 20 percent of energy, and to eat more fruit and vegetables and grain. The remaining 29,294 women were asked to stay on their current diets.

A total of 1,767 of the women in the low-fat group were diagnosed with breast cancer about eight years after going on it, but in all, those in the low-fat group were less likely to die from the disease, according to Chlebowski’s statement.

“There were 20 percent fewer deaths after breast cancer in the low-fat group than the usual diet or control group,” he said.

Dr. Courtney Vito, an assistant clinical professor of surgical oncology at Duarte, Calif.’s City of Hope, was not involved in the study, but was in support of it, saying that it could provide women with breast cancer with the tools that could help them live longer.

“It would make sense that someone eating a lower-fat diet will overall be healthier,” she said.