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Why Healthy Eating Is Key for Breast Cancer Survivors
  • Posted April 17, 2024

Why Healthy Eating Is Key for Breast Cancer Survivors

Eating healthy can lower the risk of heart disease in breast cancer survivors, a new study has found.

Heart disease is a top cause of death in women who've survived breast cancer, likely due to the toxic effects of chemo, radiation and targeted cancer therapy on the heart, researchers said.

Breast cancer and heart disease also share some common risk factors, including aging, lack of exercise and smoking.

But following a heart-healthy DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet appears to blunt this risk, according to findings published April 17 in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

“Our findings suggest that we need to begin talking to breast cancer survivors about the potential heart benefits of the DASH diet,” lead researcher Isaac Ergas, a staff scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, said in a journal news release.

For the study, researchers analyzed data for more than 3,400 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at Kaiser Permanente Northern California between 2005 and 2013. The women were monitored through 2021.

Women whose diets were most similar to DASH at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis had a 47% lower risk of heart failure, a 23% lower risk of irregular heart rhythm or cardiac arrest, a 21% lower risk of valve heart disease, and a 25% lower risk of deep vein thrombosis, results show.

A DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. It also limits intake of salt, red and processed meats, and sugary beverages.

In particular, higher consumption of low-fat dairy reduced the risk of heart-related death, after adjusting for all other food groups, researchers found.

The relationship between a DASH diet and heart disease also appeared to be modified by the type of chemo a woman received, researchers added.

Chemotherapy regimens involving anthracyclines -- a class of chemo known to damage the heart -- benefitted more from healthy eating, in terms of heart health, than others.

More information

Harvard Medical School has more on the heart effects of cancer treatment.

SOURCE: Oxford University Press, news release, April 17, 2024

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