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Jan 07, 2015 07:12 PM EST

Breast Cancer Reoccurrence May be Thwarted by Nutrition Education

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Nutrition education could prevent reoccurrence of breast cancer, according to a recent study.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cause of death among women worldwide, and five-year survival rates are just 58.4 percent in Brazil, lower than in many other regions.

For the study, researchers collected data from 18 patients. This information was compared with a 75-patient control group. Over 12 months, the patients in the intervention group were educated about proper nutrition, asked to record their food consumption on a calendar, and contacted via phone by the researchers to learn about their food consumption and offer recommendations for improvement. Patients in the intervention group also attended meetings and received a monthly bulletin to further their nutrition education.

The main goals of the nutrition education were to reduce the patients' consumption of red and processed meat and increase fruit and vegetable intake.

"Although the sample size was small and data were collected at different times, this study provides evidence that women undergoing breast cancer treatment might benefit from immediate, individualized and detailed nutrition monitoring," Cecilia C. Schiavon, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The researchers based their conclusions on the fact that patients in the intervention group showed significant reductions in red and processed meat, consuming 50 percent less than peers in the comparison group. Comparison group patients also had two-times greater body weight increase during the study. Both red and processed meat consumption and body weight increases have been linked with increased oxidative stress, which has been shown to affect increased cancer recurrence. Fruit and vegetable intake was also increased among the intervention group and likely helped those patients limit BMI, unlike the comparison group, which had three times higher BMI over the course of the study.

The findings are detailed in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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