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J Clin Oncol. 2002 Feb 15;20(4):1017-25.

Dietary change after breast cancer: extent, predictors, and relation with psychological distress.

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Population Health Research Unit, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université Laval, Québec, Canada.



Some women may try to cope with breast cancer by making lifestyle modifications, possibly in the hope of improving disease outcome. We assessed extent, predictors, and effect on psychological distress of dietary changes in the year after diagnosis among 250 women with newly diagnosed, nonmetastatic breast cancer.


Data came from medical records, and from interviews 3 days and 12 months after initial treatment.


At 12 months, 41% (n = 103) reported dietary changes at some time since diagnosis, with decreases in meat (77%) and increases in fruit and vegetable intake (72%) being the most frequent. Women reporting changes were more likely to be younger, to have positive nodes, to be receiving adjuvant therapy, and to be more distressed initially. The mean 0 to 12 month decrease in psychological distress was greater in women who reported changes (9 points) than those who did not (4.7 points) (P =.03), although regression toward the mean cannot be excluded.


A sizable proportion of women made dietary changes on their own initiative. Most changes reported were generally consistent with current scientific hypotheses about dietary changes that might favorably affect prognosis. The profile of women reporting changes suggests a group with more concerns about recurrence, who may have initiated dietary change to help cope with and gain a sense of control over the disease, and possibly to improve prognosis. Our results suggest that newly diagnosed women could be receptive to explicit attention to diet as part of psychosocial care. However, this interest in dietary change may not, as yet, have been maximally channeled into trying to improve the care and quality of life of women facing diagnosis, treatments, and fears about recurrence.

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