High-Quality Diet Before Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis May Lengthen Survival


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An overall high-quality diet at least 12 months before a diagnosis of ovarian cancer “was associated with a statistically significant 27% lower risk of death after ovarian cancer,” an analysis of dietary data from the Women’s Health Initiative showed. The protective effect was strongest among women with a waist circumference of less than or equal to 88 cm and no history of diabetes. “Physical activity level did not modify the association between diet quality and survival,” Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and colleagues reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“We identified 636 centrally adjudicated cases of ovarian cancer within the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study or Clinical Trials of 161,808 postmenopausal women followed from 1995 to 2012,” the authors explained. Dietary quality was self-reported and calculated according to the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2005). Women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a mean age of 62.9 years.

“The most important finding was the marked 27% lower risk of mortality after ovarian cancer diagnosis in women who reported higher overall dietary quality (tertile 3) compared with the lowest score (tertile 1),” the investigators noted. The hazard ratio (HR) for the highest vs lowest tertile was 0.73 (95% CI = 0.55–0.97, Ptrend = .03). “The association between the Healthy Eating Index and ovarian cancer–specific mortality was similar but attenuated (HR for the highest vs lowest tertile = 0.75; 95% CI = 0.55–1.01; Ptrend = .06),” the researchers added.

No association was found between morality after ovarian cancer and any of the individual dietary components, such as total fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, oils, sugars, or alcoholic beverages, “suggesting that it is the overall dietary pattern that is relevant,” the investigators noted.

After adjusting for age and stage of disease, all-cause mortality was higher in black women than in non-Hispanic white women. Women with a waist circumference of at least 88 cm and those with a previous diagnosis of diabetes had significantly higher risks of death.

“A large (N = 1,070) randomized, controlled trial is currently underway to test the hypothesis that dietary changes toward a higher Healthy Eating Index, along with physical activity, adopted after treatment for stages II to IV ovarian cancer will improve progression-free survival (NCT00719303),” the authors reported. Whether changing diet to increase the diet-quality score after an ovarian cancer diagnosis would offer improvements in mortality has yet to be determined.” ■

Thomson CA, et al: J Natl Cancer Inst 106(11):dju314, 2014.


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