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Good Diet May Aid Ovarian Cancer Survival

Study Shows Women With Healthy Diets Before Diagnosis Live Longer

Comparing Food Choices continued...

Those who ate the most red meat, processed meat, and cured meat had a briefer survival time. When the researchers looked at red meat lovers vs. avoiders, "we found almost a threefold risk of dying for those women who ate four or more servings of red meat a week compared to those who ate less than one serving per week over the 11-year study period," Dolecek says.

Women who drank more milk also had a disadvantage, although Dolecek can't say why.

"Women who had seven or more servings of milk of any type per week were two times as likely to die during the study period as those who had none." But Dolecek stressed that the milk finding should be interpreted cautiously. "It may have something to do with the fact that they are genetically predisposed."

Eating fruits also helped, but as a whole, high intakes of fruits and vegetables evaluated together didn't make enough of a survival difference to be significant from a statistical point of view, the researchers found.

It's not clear, either, exactly how a healthy diet may lengthen survival in those with ovarian cancer, Dolecek says. "You might have a stronger immune system," she says, Or ''your overall health status may be better."

In future research, Dolecek hopes to find out if improving the diet after diagnosis may also boost survival. "Further research is needed to determine if the quality of the post-diagnosis diet impacts survival," she says.

Ovarian Cancer: Lifestyle Matters

The new findings echo some from previous research, says Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD, an associate professor of nutritional sciences, medicine, and public health at the Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, who co-authored an editorial to accompany the new study.

''I think the message is 'lifestyle matters' -- and lifelong lifestyle habits," she tells WebMD.

The message from the study, Thomson says, is optimistic for some. "Yes, you may still have a difficult diagnosis to deal with, but if you go in being a healthy eater, in the long run you may have a better prognosis and survival."

''Ideally," she says, "we need to study this after diagnosis and find out if they change their eating -- can they change their survival [time]."

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