University of Illinois at Chicago researchers identify relationship between healthy eating and prolonged ovarian cancer survival
A study published in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA), is among the first to evaluate possible diet associations with ovarian cancer survival. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) determined that there is a strong relationship between healthy eating and prolonged survival.
The subjects included 351 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer between 1994 to 1998, who participated in a previous case-control study. The original study collected demographic, clinico-pathologic, and lifestyle-related variables including diet. Each subject completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) in which they were asked to report their usual dietary intake during the three to five year period prior to their diagnosis.
To translate the diet estimates in a meaningful way, the FFQ items were assigned to the major food groups reflected in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 (DGA), including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy, fats and oils, sweets, and alcohol. Grains, meats, and dairy were further subdivided into “suggested” and “other” groups. The “suggested” subdivisions included healthier food choices, whereas the “other” subdivisions contained less desirable selections.
The researchers found that higher total fruit and vegetable consumption, and higher vegetable consumption alone led to a survival advantage. A subgroup analyses revealed that only yellow and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale, cauliflower, bok choy) significantly increased survival advantage. At five years, 75% of the women who ate less than one serving a week of yellow vegetables were alive, compared to about 82% of those who had three or more servings of yellow vegetables a week. Likewise, a statistically significant improvement in survival was observed for the healthier grains.
Higher intakes of less-healthy meats — specifically the red and cured/processed meats subgroups — were associated with a survival disadvantage. Notably, the researchers found a 3-fold increased risk of dying for those women who ate four or more servings of red meat a week compared to those who ate less than one serving per week over the 11-year study period.
A survival disadvantage was also observed in connection with consumption of the milk (dairy – all types) subgroup. Women who had seven or more servings of milk of any type per week were two times as likely to die during the study period as those who had none. The researchers stress that the milk finding should be interpreted cautiously, because it may have something to do with the fact that some women are genetically predisposed.
Therese A. Dolecek, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute for Health Research and Policy, School of Public Health, UIC, and a member of the Cancer Control and Population Science Research Program at the UIC Cancer Center, and her colleagues state the following in the article:
The study findings suggest that food patterns three to five years prior to a diagnosis of epithelial ovarian cancer have the potential to influence survival time. The pre-diagnosis food patterns observed to afford a survival advantage after an epithelial ovarian cancer diagnosis reflect characteristics commonly found in plant-based or low fat diets. These diets generally contain high levels of constituents that would be expected to protect against cancer and minimize ingestion of known carcinogens found in foods.
In an interview with WebMD.com, Dr. Dolecek said: “To pinpoint exactly how much survival [was lengthened] is not possible. It varies from person to person.” Many factors affect survival, such as the stage of the cancer at diagnosis and the woman’s age.
In an editorial commentary in the same JADA issue, Cynthia A. Thomson, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, and David S. Alberts, M.D., Director, Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, write the following:
The authors provide new evidence that dietary factors, particularly total fruit and vegetable, red and processed meat and milk intakes, may influence ovarian cancer survival. These findings corroborate earlier work by Nagle et. al. and are among only a select few studies of dietary associations with ovarian cancer recurrence and/or prognosis despite a significant and growing body of literature suggesting diet may influence ovarian cancer risk.
About The Journal of the American Dietetic Association
As the official journal of the American Dietetic Association (www.eatright.org), the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA) (www.adajournal.org) is the premier source for the practice and science of food, nutrition and dietetics. The monthly, peer-reviewed journal presents original articles prepared by scholars and practitioners and is the most widely read professional publication in the field. JADA focuses on advancing professional knowledge across the range of research and practice issues such as: nutritional science, medical nutrition therapy, public health nutrition, food science and biotechnology, food service systems, leadership and management and dietetics education.
About The American Dietetic Association
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) (www.eatright.org) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.
- Dietary Factors Influence Ovarian Cancer Survival Rates – New Study Shows Relationship Between Healthy Eating and Prolonged Survival, Press Release, American Dietetic Association, March 1, 2010.
- Dolecek TA, McCarthy BJ, Joslin CE, et. al. Prediagnosis Food Patterns Are Associated with Length of Survival from Epithelial Ovarian Cancer. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Mar;110(3):369-382. PubMed PMID: 20184987.
- Thomson CA, Alberts DS. Diet and Survival after Ovarian Cancer: Where Are We and What’s Next? J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Mar;110(3):366-8. PubMed PMID: 20184986.
- Good Diet May Aid Ovarian Cancer Survival Study Shows Women With Healthy Diets Before Diagnosis Live Longer, by Kathleen Doheny, WebMD.Com, March 4, 2010.
- Nagle CM, Purdie DM, Webb PM, et. al. Dietary influences on survival after ovarian cancer. Int J Cancer. 2003 Aug 20;106(2):264-9. PubMed PMID: 12800204.