Diet matters

by Christina on March 8, 2010

This study shows an association between diet and ovarian cancer survival. About 1 in 71 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It is the 5th most common cancer and 5th leading cause of death in American women. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed at late stages… and so it often has a poor prognosis.

This study analyzed the diet of 341 women before their diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and looked at their cancer survival rates.

They found that patients who ate yellow and cruciferous vegetables prior to their diagnosis had significantly longer survival times, while those who ate meat and drank milk had significantly shorter survival times.

Survival curves for vegetables (left) and yellow vegetables (right). Longer survival with more vegetables, and specifically more yellow vegetables.
Survival curves for meat (left) and milk (right). Longer survival with less meat and less dairy.

It is important to note that this study looked only at dietary habits before the diagnosis of cancer, so tells us nothing about the effects of a dietary change on cancer outcomes (this would be a good question for future studies).

The dairy finding is especially interesting to me. Potential explanations the researchers suggest include: 1) molecules in milk (such as galactose) are directly toxic to the ovaries, and 2) hormones given to cattle for growth (which humans ingest along with the milk) can lead to cancerous growths.

The explanation for meat’s role in lowering cancer survival rates include the following: 1) fat and cholesterol present in meat, 2) hormonal substances given to cattle, 3) carcinogens generated during the processing and preparation of meats, and 4) high iron content of red meat (iron causes oxidative stress leading to DNA damage).

This study provides data for what may seem intuitive to many: that the food we eat before any diagnosis of cancer will influence our ability to survive it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris March 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm

That's a fascinating post on diet and ovarian cancer. How long will the medical establishment ignore the evidence? How can we get doctors to pay more attention to studies like the one you cite?

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