A new prospective study has reported that breast cancer survivors consuming high quality diets are far less likely to die from breast cancer than those with poor quality diets. The study was designed to investigate how postdiagnosis diet quality and the combination of diet and recreational physical activity are associated with prognosis among survivors.

The study included an ethnically diverse group of 670 women diagnosed with local (in the breast) or regional (chest wall, or lymph nodes) breast cancer. Participants completed questionnaires on diet and physical activity 30 months after diagnosis and were followed for six years. Diet quality was assessed using Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2005 scores. The Healthy Eating Index-2005 is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to U.S. federal dietary guidance. The HEI-2005 translates recommendations in the 2005 dietary guidelines into specific, quantified recommendations for consumption of fruits, total vegetables, dark green and orange vegetables, grains and whole grains, and calories from solid fat, alcohol, and added sugar, among other dietary elements.

Survivors consuming better-quality diets, as defined by higher HEI-2005 scores, were found to have a 60% reduced risk of death from any cause and an 88% reduced risk of breast cancer-specific death (when comparing women in the highest quartile to those in the lowest quartile of HEI-2005 scores). Compared to inactive participants who had poor-quality diets, study participants who engaged in any recreational physical activity and consumed better-quality diets had an 89% reduced risk of death from any cause and a 91% lower risk of breast cancer-specific death. These associations were independent of obesity status. The authors conclude that women diagnosed with localized or regional breast cancer may improve prognosis by adopting better-quality dietary patterns and regular recreational physical activity.

Please see our article on how to optimize your breast cancer diet for information on what to eat during all stages of treatment and recovery.