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Ovarian Cancer--Why Eating Healthily Could Save Your Life

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Ovarian Cancer: Healthy Eating Andrey Kuzmin/ Photospin

Everyone has heard that eating healthily is better for you, but according to research by the University of Illinois at Chicago, eating your fresh fruits and vegetables could very well be a matter of life and death.

In a study of women with ovarian cancer, they found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables had greater survival rates than those that didn’t.
Ovarian cancer is a particularly difficult cancer to treat because the initial stages of it are asymptomatic so the sufferer is not normally aware they have it until the final stages. Only 45 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are still alive five years after the diagnosis. This is why it is so important for researchers to find ways to prevent it and to treat it more effectively.

In the study, 351 ovarian cancer sufferers were asked to report what kind of diet they had in the three to five years prior to their diagnosis.

Different food groups included fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy products, fats and oils, and sweets and alcohol. These groups were then sub-divided into further groups of desirable and less desirable choices.

The researchers found that the women who ate a higher total amount of fruits and vegetables and those who consumed a higher amount of vegetables alone, had a survival advantage on the other women.

Higher intakes of less healthy meats caused people to die earlier.

The authors wrote, "The study findings suggest that food patterns three to five years prior to a diagnosis of epithelial ovarian cancer have the potential to influence survival time. The pre-diagnosis food patterns observed to afford a survival advantage after an epithelial ovarian cancer diagnosis reflect characteristics commonly found in plant-based or low fat diets. These diets generally contain high levels of constituents that would be expected to protect against cancer and minimize ingestion of known carcinogens found in foods."

Cynthia A. Thomson, Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences, University of Arizona, wrote, "The authors provide new evidence that dietary factors, particularly total fruit and vegetable, [and] red and processed meat and milk intakes, may influence ovarian cancer survival. These findings corroborate earlier work by Nagle, et al. and are among only a select few studies of dietary associations with ovarian cancer recurrence and/or prognosis despite a significant and growing body of literature suggesting diet may influence ovarian cancer risk."

So if you want to reduce your risk of getting cancer or you want to increase your chances of surviving cancer, eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and grains and cut out junk food and processed meats.

Source: “Pre-diagnosis Food Patterns Are Associated with Length of Survival from Epithelial Ovarian Cancer” by Therese A. Dolecek, PhD, MS, RD, Bridget J. McCarthy, PhD, Charlotte E. Joslin, OD, PhD, Caryn E. Peterson, MS, Seijeoung Kim, PhD, MPH, Sally A. Freels, PhD, and Faith G. Davis, PhD. The commentary is “Diet and Survival After Ovarian Cancer: Where are We and What’s Next?” by Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD, and David S. Alberts, MD. Both appear in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 3 (March 2010).

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

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Joanna, this is an excellent article. I'm a friend of Dr. Alberts and the AZ Cancer Center and they are doing life-saving work everyday. We cannot speak too much about their work on diet and exercise to reduce incidence and recurrence. Thank you for helping spread this information to women who are interested in healthy living.
Annette Leal Mattern
President, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

September 28, 2010 - 7:07am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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