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Mediterranean diet may cut breast cancer relapse risk

By Jane Kirby

A Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish and olive oil may reduce the risk of breast cancer returning, a study suggests.

Research on more than 300 women with early-stage breast cancer reinforces earlier work suggesting diet may play an important role in cutting cancer risk.

Presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Asco) conference in Chicago, the study involved 199 women eating their normal diet and 108 who ate a Mediterranean diet.

A Mediterranean diet includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil, while being low in red and processed meat, and with alcohol kept to a minimum.

People who are considered to get maximum benefit from the diet have less than one drink a day for women, or one to two for men, and fewer than three servings of red meat per day. They also eat several servings of fruit and vegetables per day, one serving of wholegrains and up to four servings of fish per week.

In the latest study, carried out at Piacenza Hospital in Italy, women who were in remission from breast cancer were tracked for three years. The results showed that during that time, 11 patients suffered cancer again who were following their normal diet, while no women in the Mediterranean diet group experienced a relapse.

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: "For many women, fear of the disease returning is one of the biggest issues they face.

"So anything that helps us understand how to lower risk of recurrence in women who follow a Mediterranean diet is a welcome addition to our toolbox. However, this is a small study which only followed women for three years. We look forward to seeing results of longer term studies."

Professor Arnie Purushotham, Cancer Research UK's senior clinical adviser, said: "The preliminary results of this small study suggest that a Mediterranean diet could lower the risk of breast cancer returning, but we'd need much longer follow-up than three years to confirm the diet's impact."

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