An article was published this week on-line in the December 15, 2008 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology showing a diet high in vegetables, fruit, fiber and somewhat lower in fat cuts the risk of breast cancer recurrence approximately 31%, but only in a sub-group of women who were not experiencing hot flashes when they began the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Trial. In addition, further "mining or drilling down" into the results showed that the WHEL Study diet also helped reduce the recurrence risk 47% for those women who were already post-menopausal when entering the study.
These secondary results follow the main findings of the original study reported last year, the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Trial (WHEL), which compared the effects of the two diets on cancer recurrence in more than 3,000 early-stage breast cancer survivors. That study showed no overall difference in recurrence among the two diet groups. In spite of these negative and disappointing overall findings, I have already commented on the WHEL study several times in the past with the basic message of "don't stop trying to eat an ultra-healthy diet!":
• What do the WHEL Study and the movie Sicko have in common?
• The WHEL Study results - well................
• Additional thoughts about the WHEL Study results
• Walk-wok: Learn from those survivors who are N=1
• Good questions that made me think!
If you are a cancer survivor, I still recommend across the board that you take your cancer diagnosis as a wake-up call, a "teachable moment", even a gift, to take the time necessary to evaluate what changes in your diet and life will help you first recover from your cancer therapies but then achieve optimal health and wellness, in other words, "be the best you can be for as long as possible". :-) Don't wait to see if a diet and lifestyle study will be done for your type of cancer or for any "data mining" to see if an already published study will demonstrate that your particular cancer sub-group will benefit from making healthful diet changes.
An editorial accompanying this article says that medical oncologists should be counseling their patients about diet. Hurray!! but good golly, I had to chuckle - don't wait for that to occur or expect your oncologist will have much knowledge or time to help you assess, prioritize, and develop strategies to optimize your diet, nutrition, and lifestyle choices. Hustle yourself off to a Registered Dietitian (an RD, hopefully one who is certified in oncology nutrition with the CSO credential), and if your cancer center does not have one (or two or three!), please speak up and start asking and asking and asking again "Why not?" :-) What is your cancer center waiting for?
Lastly, speaking of waiting, don't wait to make diet and lifestyle changes until after you write out your New Year's Resolutions. The rest of your life is waiting for you right now!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD