Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago determined that there is a strong relationship between healthy eating and prolonged survival among ovarian cancer patients.

The boffins reported the finding in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The subjects included 351 women diagnosed with incident epithelial ovarian cancer 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 where they were asked to report their usual dietary intake over the three to five years prior to their diagnosis.

To translate the diet estimates into 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 to “suggested” and “other” groups. The “suggested” subdivisions included healthier food choices, whereas the “other” subdivisions contained less desirable selections.

The authors found that higher total fruit and vegetable consumption, and higher vegetable consumption alone led to a survival advantage. Likewise, a statistically significant improvement in survival was observed for the healthier grains. Higher intakes of less-healthy meats were associated with a survival time disadvantage.

Writing in the article, Therese A. Dolecek, PhD, MS, RD, Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Institute for Health Research and Policy, School of Public Health and Member, Cancer Control and Population Science Research Program, UIC Cancer Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues state, “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.”

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