The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Total fat intake and breast cancer survival

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Breast cancer survival rates vary from country to country. Many researchers have wondered whether these differences in survival may be due, in part, to differences in diet. Fat intake is of special interest.

Studies have looked at whether eating a low-fat diet after a breast cancer diagnosis improves survival. Findings are mixed.

Learn more about diet after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Learn more about dietary fat and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

Study selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies with at least 400 participants and meta-analyses.

All studies measured fat intake after breast cancer diagnosis.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.  

Study

Study Population
(number of participants)

Follow-up
(years)

 Was Survival Better for Breast Cancer Survivors who Ate a Low-Fat Diet Compared to Those Who Ate a High-Fat Diet?

Yes / No

Randomized controlled trials

Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study [1]

3,088

7

No

Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study [2]

2,347

5

No

Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial [3]

1,764

9

Yes

Prospective cohort studies

Collaborative Women’s Longevity Study [4]

4,441

6

No

Nurses’ Health Study [5]

3,846

7

No

Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Group [6]

1,744

5

No

Borugian et al. [7]

603

10

Premenopausal women:
Yes

Postmenopausal women:
No

Rohan et al. [8]

412

6

No

Meta-analyses

Brennan et al. [9]

4 studies

Various

No

Xing et al. [10]

3 studies

Various

No

 

References

  1. Pierce JP, Natarajan L, Caan BJ, et al. Influence of a diet very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat on prognosis following treatment for breast cancer: the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) randomized trial. JAMA. 298(3):289-98, 2007.
  2. Chlebowski RT, Blackburn GL, Thomson CA, et al. Dietary fat reduction and breast cancer outcome: interim efficacy results from the Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 98(24):1767-76, 2006.
  3. Chlebowski RT, Aragaki AK, Anderson GL, et al. Association of low-fat dietary pattern with breast cancer overall survival: a secondary analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative randomized clinical trial. JAMA Oncol. 2018 May 24 [Epub ahead of print].
  4. Beasley JM, Newcomb PA, Trentham-Dietz A, et al. Post-diagnosis dietary factors and survival after invasive breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 128(1):229-36, 2011.
  5. Holmes MD, Chen WY, Hankinson SE, Willett WC. Physical activity’s impact on the association of fat and fiber intake with survival after breast cancer. Am J Epidemiol. 170(10):1250-56, 2009.
  6. Ewertz M, Gillanders S, Meyer L, et al. Survival of breast cancer patients in relation to factors which affect the risk of developing breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 49(4):526-30, 1991.
  7. Borugian MJ, Sheps SB, Kim-Sing C, et al. Insulin, macronutrient intake, and physical activity: are potential indicators of insulin resistance associated with mortality from breast cancer? Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 13:1163-72, 2004.
  8. Rohan TE, Hiller JE, McMichael AJ. Dietary factors and survival from breast cancer. Nutr Cancer. 20(2):167-77, 1993.
  9. Brennan SF, Woodside JV, Lunny PM, Cardwell CR, Cantwell MM. Dietary fat and breast cancer mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 57(10):1999-2008, 2017.
  10. Xing MY, Xu SZ, Shen P. Effect of low-fat diet on breast cancer survival: a meta-analysis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 15(3):1141-4, 2014.

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