Breast cancer and low fat diets
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager Emeritus, Oncology Social Work
JUNE 03, 2019
So just exactly what does this mean? The Women's Health Initiative study has been going on for decades and is intended to gather data from years of observation of women's lives. This particular finding means just what it says: women who followed a lower fat diet were less likely to die of breast cancer than others. It does not mean, to be repetitive, that they were less likely to develop breast cancer or to have a recurrence of breast cancer.
As we all know, there is increasing evidence that there is a link between obesity and a number of cancers. In addition to obesity being a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes, it is also increases the risk of at least 13 kinds of cancer, including postmenopausal breast cancer. Recovering from cancer is an opportune time to consider all of our health habits and, possibly, make some changes. There are a million suggestions out there about diets that may even be purported to prevent a diagnosis or recurrence. That is just not true. But caring for ourselves can give us a welcome sense of control and may improve our overall sense of well-being.
In a way, this kind of study seems rather "ho hum…what else is new?" It does, however, serve to remind us of the value of paying attention to our diets. There are no miracle food or diet that can guarantee good health, but it is very clear that following the usual recommendations of lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, reducing red meat, and limiting alcohol are wise. It is also clear that we must attend to balance and common sense and making choices that bring value, as well as better health, to our lives. No one has proven that occasional ice cream cones or martinis or big helpings of onion rings are terrible for us, and many of us believe that those things (or others, choose your own) bring us pleasure. It's always about moderation.