Women who were eating a healthy diet before they were diagnosed with ovarian cancer were less likely to die from any cause including the disease than women with poorer diets, a new study shows.
A healthy diet did not protect women with diabetes or those with a thicker waist, however. Obesity, a key risk factor for diabetes, also elevates the risk of ovarian cancer significantly, previous studies have shown.
Researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson said that eating a healthier diet before a cancer diagnosis may not only lead to a healthier weight. But may also build a stronger immune system, allowing patients to better withstand cancer treatments.
Too, eating a healthy diet before diagnosis may make following a healthier diet after diagnosis easier, leading to better overall health despite the cancer and treatment protocol, added lead author Cynthia A. Thomson.
To get their results, researchers looked at 636 cases of ovarian cancer between 1993 and 1998 that occurred in women who had previously filled out dietary and physical activity questionnaires as part of the larger Women’s Health Initiative study.
They then divided the women into three groups based on their diets, and found that the women who ate more fruits and vegetables – especially a variety of the two food group – as well as more whole grains and fiber were 27 percent less likely to die of any cause than those whose diets were most lacking in key nutrients.
Diet didn’t benefit women with a history of diabetes or those with a waist circumference greater than 34 inches, researchers said, noting that previous research has already shown that women with diabetes have a higher risk of death than women without diabetes if diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The study appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.