A new study has reported that high lignan consumption is associated with significantly improved survival among postmenopausal breast cancer patients. Lignans are estrogenic substances found mainly in the woody or fibrous tissues of a variety of foods, including seeds, whole grain products, and some fruits and vegetables. Sources include flaxseed, whole rye, wheat bran, sesame seeds, and blackberries. Enterolignans (enterolactone and enterodiol) are products of bacteria in the gut. High lignan intake has been reported to be associated with reduced postmenopausal breast cancer risk, but not much is known regarding the influence of lignan consumption on survival.

The study included 2,653 postmenopausal breast cancer patients diagnosed between 2001 and 2005. Mortality status and cause of death, if appropriate, were verified through year-end 2009. The median follow-up period was 6.4 years. The authors calculated the associations for estimated enterolignans, lignan-rich foods, and dietary fiber in relation to overall survival and breast cancer-specific survival, adjusted for breast cancer risk factors.

A total of 321 women died during follow up, of whom 235 died of breast cancer. High estimated enterolactone and enterodiol levels were both found to be associated with significantly lower overall mortality. Fiber intake was also found to be associated with a significantly lower overall mortality. The result did not change when analyzed according to estrogen receptor status and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use. The associations of survival with estimated enterolignans were still evident at low but not high fiber intake (when analyzed according to median fiber intake). The authors conclude that postmenopausal breast cancer patients with high lignan intake (and the resulting enterolignans) may have a better survival compared to those with low intake.

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.