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Low-fat diet may improve breast cancer survival

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Breast cancer patients who adopted a low-fat diet were more likely to survive for at least a decade after diagnosis, compared to patients who ate fattier fare,suggests a new research.

If the cancer is found only in the breast and has not spread to other parts of the body, 99 percent of the people who receive such a diagnosis go on to live cancer-free lives for a minimum of 5 years, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.

Overall, survival for women who stuck with the low-fat regimen was 22 percent higher compared to women who continued with their usual diet, the researchers noted.

The study has “found yet another health benefit to eating a low-fat diet, and more fruits and vegetables,” said lead researcher Dr Rowan Chlebowski, a research professor at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, Calif.

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“Our study demonstrates that postmenopausal women on a low-fat diet who were diagnosed with breast cancer lived longer,” said Chlebowski, who works at the hospital’s department of medical oncology and therapeutics research.

As his team noted, data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study had already found that women who ate a low-fat diet were at lower odds of developing more aggressive forms of breast cancer.

For the study, Chlebowski’s group looked at WHI data on nearly 49,000 postmenopausal women tracked by 40 clinical centers across the United States.

The women were randomly selected to stick with their regular diet (a third or more of daily energy supplied by fat) or to adopt a regimen with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, where less than 20 percent of daily energy needs came from fat.

Over the 8.5 years of the diet study, 1,764 of the women developed breast cancer. Outcomes for these women were tracked for an average of 11.5 years after their diagnosis.

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Looking at death from breast cancer specifically, of the 516 women who died from any cause, 68 in the low-fat diet group died of breast cancer, compared to 120 in the regular-diet group, the researchers said.

Women who ate less dietary fat were also less likely to have died of other causes, especially heart disease. While 64 women who ate fattier diets died of heart disease over the study period, that number fell to just 27 for women in the low-fat diet group, the findings showed.

The take-home message, according to Chlebowski: “Following a low-fat diet — at any point in your life — can have tremendous health benefits.”

With Agency Inputs

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Suicide can’t be predicted by asking about suicidal thoughts : Study

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Most people who died of suicide deny they experience suicidal thoughts when asked by doctors in the weeks and months leading up to their death, a major Australian study has found.

The findings, co-authored by clinical psychiatrist and Professor Matthew Large from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, Sydney that published in the journal BJPsych Open The meta-analysis challenge the widely-held assumption that psychiatrists can predict who will suicide by asking if they are preoccupied with thoughts of killing themselves.

The study showed that 80% of patients who were not undergoing psychiatric treatment and who died of suicide reported not to have suicidal thoughts when asked by their psychiatrist or GP.

“If you meet someone who has suicidal ideation there is a 98 per cent chance that they are not going to suicide,” said Professor Large, an international expert on suicide risk assessment who also works in the emergency department of a major Sydney hospital.

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“But what we didn’t know was how frequently people who go on to suicide have denied having suicidal thoughts when asked directly,” he added.

“This study proves we can no longer ration psychiatric care based on the presence of suicidal thoughts alone. We need to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for everyone experiencing mental illness, whether or not they reveal they are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Professor Large said.

About one in 10 people will have suicidal ideation in their lifetime. But the study showed suicidal ideation alone was not rational grounds for deciding who gets treatment and who does not, Professor Large said.

“We know that suicide feeling is pretty common and that suicide is actually a rare event, even among people with severe mental illness,” Professor Large added.

Suicidal ideation tells us an awful lot about how a person is feeling, their psychological distress, sometimes their diagnosis and their need for treatment but it’s not a meaningful test of future behaviour.

Suicidal feelings can fluctuate rapidly and people may suicide very impulsively after only a short period of suicidal thoughts.

But, people had good reasons not to disclose thoughts of suicide, fearing stigma, triggering over-reactions or upsetting family and friends, and being involuntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment, Professor Large said.

Professor Large emphasized that clinicians should not assume that patients experiencing mental distress without reporting suicidal ideas were not at elevated risk of suicide.

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