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UA Led Study Finds a Good Diet Before Diagnosis is Linked With Lower Mortality Among Ovarian Cancer Survivors

Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD

The quality of a woman’s diet was linked to lower mortality and may have a protective effect after ovarian cancer, according to a new study published this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecological cancer death in U.S. women with an estimated 22,280 new cases and 15,500 deaths annually. Most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease, thus contributing to low survival rates. Efforts to identify prognostic factors for ovarian cancer are needed, and diet may provide a modifiable influence on survival.

The influence of diet, a modifiable lifestyle factor and potential prognostic factor, on survival after an ovarian cancer diagnosis is unclear. To evaluate diet quality and the overall influence of diet on ovarian cancer survival, Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD, professor of health promotion sciences at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and UA Cancer Center researcher, and colleagues analyzed data from 636 cases of ovarian cancer among postmenopausal women within the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study or Clinical Trials from 1993 to 1998.

“Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fiber, lean protein and less fat is important for many of the leading causes of death in the U.S. It now seems to be important to ovarian cancer survival as well,” said Dr. Thomson, who is also a researcher at the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

Dietary intake was assessed using food frequency questionnaires and estimates of overall diet quality were measured using the Healthy Eating Index-2005. They observed a higher overall dietary quality was associated with a lower risk of mortality vs the lowest overall dietary quality. Also, individual dietary components were not associated with mortality after ovarian cancer. The relationship between diet quality and mortality was strongest among women with a smaller waist circumference and no history of diabetes but physical activity level did not modify the association.

The authors conclude, “…self-reported dietary quality at least 12 months prior to diagnosis was associated with a statistically significant 27% lower risk of death after ovarian cancer.”

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