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Eating less fat may lower breast-cancer risk, have little impact on colon-cancer, heart-disease risk

Adopting a low-fat diet in later life and following such a regimen for nearly a decade does not appear to have a significant impact on reducing the overall risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer or heart disease, according to a Women's Health Initiative study that involved nearly 50,000 postmenopausal women across the United States. The results of the federally funded dietary modification study will be published in a series of three papers two with lead authors at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and all three involving co-authors from the Hutchinson Center in the Feb. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA.

The study the first attempt to test the health impact of a low-fat diet in a randomized, controlled trial, considered the gold standard of clinical and public-health study design did, however, uncover some encouraging trends, according to Hutchinson Center biostatistician Ross L. Prentice, Ph.D., lead author of the JAMA paper that describes the impact of a low-fat diet on breast-cancer risk, one of the primary goals of the study.

"Women in the low-fat-diet group reduced their overall rate of breast cancer by about 9 percent as compared to the women who didn't change their eating patterns, but that difference was not statistically significant; it could have been due to chance. So at this point we're not able to say with certainty that a low-fat diet reduces the risk of breast cancer," said Prentice, member and former director of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division. A 9 percent reduction in breast-cancer incidence means that, out of 10,000 women, 42 in the low-fat-diet group and 45 in the comparison group developed breast cancer each year.

Prentice and colleagues did find, however, that a low-fat diet was associated with a statistically significant 15 percent reduction in estradiol, a form of blood estrogen that increases the risk of breast cancer.

Women in the low-fat gro
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Contact: Kristen Lidke Woodward
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org
206-667-5095
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
7-Feb-2006


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