Does diet affect the survival of women with breast cancer?

Not if the diet is high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber, and low in total fat. But don’t be discouraged.

Here are the results from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Randomized Trial.

First, the details.

  • 3088 adult women treated for early stage breast cancer were studied.
  • About half were randomly assigned to a telephone counseling program plus cooking classes and newsletters that promoted daily targets of 5 vegetable servings plus 16 oz of vegetable juice; 3 fruit servings; 30 g of fiber; and 15% to 20% of energy intake from fat.
  • The comparison group got print materials describing the “5-A-Day” dietary guidelines.

And, the results.

  • There were significant differences in the intake of vegetables, fruit, fiber, and energy intake from fat between the groups.
  • Adoption of the diet high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat did not reduce additional breast cancer events or death during 7 years of follow-up.

The bottom line?
The authors caution that the lack of a difference in additional breast cancer events or mortality over 7 years does not guarantee that differences would not have become apparent if the women had been followed longer.

This study also does not address the potential benefits of this diet combined with exercise and weight loss. Nor does it address the effects of a lifetime of this diet might have on breast cancer.

These are all good points, but as stated in an earlier post, at this time, the primary reason for patients with cancer to pay attention to their diet is that they are likely to live a long time, and a healthy diet contributes to better overall health.

7/20/07 17:18 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.