Dietary Factors and the Survival of Women with Breast Carcinoma

Michelle D. Holmes, Meir J. Stampfer, Graham A. Colditz, et al.
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

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Reviewers: Li Liu, MD
Source: Cancer, 86(5): 826-835, September 1999


Stage for stage, Japanese women with breast cancer have a better survival compared with Western women. Diet has been thought to be one of the contributing factors. This report comes from a study of whether diet before as well as after a diagnosis of breast carcinoma was associated with survival.


This study involved a cohort of 121,700 female registered nurses from the Nurses' Health Study using biennial questionnaires. Of those, 1982 women with breast cancer were eligible for the study. A total of 92 food groups or nutrients were evaluated.


  • It appeared that calcium; lutein and zeaxanthin, poultry, dairy, vegetables, fiber, and protein are associated with increased survival.
  • 18; 2 trans fatty acid showed a statistically significant detriment to survival.
  • In a subset analysis, intake of fiber, lutein/ zeaxanthin, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, fish, protein, and poultry were strongly associated with reduced mortality in node negative patients.
  • Fat intake was not associated with survival for any group.


It is noteworthy that the subjects of this study were highly selected. In addition, other well-known prognostic factors were not stratified for prior to analysis of the effects of the nutrients and food groups on survival. Two randomized studies from the Women's Intervention Nutrition study and the Women's Healthy Eating and Lifestyle are currently underway. They consist of dietary intervention vs. control group for women with Stage I, II, and IIIa breast cancer. The results will be available in 5-7 years.


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