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Diet and Risk Reduction

Posted 2/18/2015

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  I have often written about the (mostly non) associations between diet and cancer risk. The popular press is full of alarming articles and rules about what we should or should not be eating, but the fact is that very little has been proven. In general, we know that a healthy diet (defined, per usual, as a diet replete with fruits and vegetables, little red or processed meat, reduced fat) is good for us for all kinds of reasons, but can't be expected to prevent or cure cancer.

  Some years ago, there was a longitudinal study looking at reduced fat diets and recurrence risks for women who had been treated for breast cancer. Some of the women maintained their normal diet; some were given a reduced fat diet, and some were given a hugely reduced fat diet. It turned out not to make any difference. That data, however, remains, and researchers have returned to it and tried to fine tune their understanding.

  As more is now known about different kinds of breast cancer, the question arose whether there might be a subgroup of women who could benefit from a diet change. The most recent suggestions have been that a low fat diet may indeed benefit women with triple negative breast cancer. This blog attempts to address issues of interest to people who are living with all kinds of cancer, but I think this is important beyond breast cancer. There are other cancers that may be hormone related (e.g. some GYN cancers, prostate cancer). It is important not to jump to any broad conclusions, but this is worth our shared consideration.

  Now a different study from New York University suggests that a diet rich in plant-based food and low in alcohol consumption may be broadly beneficial in reducing cancer risk. Published in Cancer Causes & Control, this study looked at  whether healthy behaviors per the usual diet and exercise guidelines, are  associated with reduced risk for obesity-related cancers and the most common site-specific cancers (breast, prostate and colorectal). The results surely suggest that further study is needed, but gives some preliminary support to these ideas. Here is an excerpt from Cure Today and a link to read more:

New Studies Show Importance of Diet for Lowering Breast Cancer Risk and Preventing Recurrence
Author: Christina Izzo

Researchers analyzed medical and dietary data of 2983 men and women who were part of the Framingham Heart Study, a 60-year population study tracking factors related to cardiovascular disease as well as cancer. Focusing on data from 1991 through 2008, they identified 480 obesity-related cancers among the participants.
The researchers created a seven-point score based on the recommendations for body fat, physical activity, foods that promote weight gain, plant foods, animal foods, alcohol consumption, and food preparation and processing in order to calculate the relationship between cancer prevention recommendations and cancer incidence.
After adjusting for other factors that could contribute to cancer risk, including age, smoking and preexisting conditions, researchers found that the overall score, as a proxy for overall concordance to the guidelines, was not associated with obesity-related cancer risk. However, when score components were evaluated separately, two different measures emerged as strong predictors of cancer risk.



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