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Intensive Vegetable-Fruit Diet Shows No Effect on Breast Cancer Return

Rating

4 Star

Intensive Vegetable-Fruit Diet Shows No Effect on Breast Cancer Return

Our Review Summary

This was a brief story (only 242 words) that accurately described the main findings of an important randomized trial.  Specifically, this story discussed a newly published study showing no evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is related to a decreased risk of breast cancer recurrence. These findings are important for breast cancer survivors to know about, but the story did not include adequate context.  Further developing the story to include known treatments to prevent recurrence, both medical and behavioral, would have strengthened the story considerably.  Including another perspective from an expert in this field would have been helpful in interpeting the results and in addressing this key issue.

Other research suggests that weight management via diet and exercise may play a role in the prevention of certain types of breast cancer in post-menopausal women  (e.g. hormone receptor negative).  The story did mention prevention of excessive weight gain via diet and exercise would be the "next frontier in cancer prevention research". In a similarly designed study recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, there was a small (about 6-pound) weight loss difference in the group of women assigned to a high-fiber, low-fat diet, and fewer breast cancer recurrences in this group (though the difference was not statistically significant). 

The story failed to mention other evidence-based breast cancer recurrence strategies currently available such as hormone and biological medications, etc. These medications can reduce the risk of recurrence by about 50% or more. The story does not mention any potential "side effects" of such a high fiber diet, which might include bloating, gas, and diarrhea or loose stools. 

While the reporter cites Dr. Gapstur, an editorial writer on the newly published data, her comment needs further explanation. More information from her and from other researchers or clinicians not affliated with the study would have been useful, especially regarding a discussion of non-cancer related benefits associated with a high-fiber, low-fat diet focused largely on plant-based foods.

(Publisher note and correction on July 26, 2007:  We should have noted that this was not an enterprise story by the Washington Post.  The Post slashed an original 733-word story by the Associated Press to come up with this almost 500-word-shorter version.) 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

There was no discussion of the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables compared to the typical American diet of largely processed/fast foods.  But it’s safe to assume most readers know the costs from their regular grocery shopping.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story provided information that the two groups did not differ in terms of rates for breast cancer recurrence, the main outcome of the study.

 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story only provided the information that the two groups did not differ in terms of rates for breast cancer recurrence, not survival. The story did mention that neither of the groups lost more weight, so such a high-fiber diet is not a guarantee for weight loss.  The story does not mention any harms of a diet high in fiber and low in fat. Possible "side effects" of such a diet might include bloating, gas, and diarrhea or loose stools. 

 


Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story discusses the study design and presents the absolute number of women who had a breast cancer recurrence in each group. The story does not mention that the study participants self-reported their dietary habits.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story did not engage in disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story only quotes the author of an editorial on the newly published data.  Her comment needs further explanation, so more information from her or from other researchers or clinicians not affliated with the study would have been useful, especially regarding a discussion of other benefits associated with a high-fiber low-fat diet focusd largely on plant-based foods.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story failed to mention other breast cancer recurrence strategies such as hormone and biological medications, etc. Other studies have suggested that weight management via diet and exercise may play a role in the prevention of certain types of breast cancer in post-menopausal women  (e.g hormone receptor negative). The story did mention prevention of excessive weight gain via diet and exercise would be the "next frontier in cancer prevention research". 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story does not specifically mention the availability of a fresh fruits and vegetables for all populations, but the focus of the story is on the lack of evidence that a diet concentrated on these foods has any benefit for breast cancer recurrence.  No preventative behavioral modification related to diet is advocated.  The story was also suffienciently clear about what the "treatment" was (number of servings of vegetables and fruits, etc) such that if a person wanted to "treat" themselves in this manner they could replicate the intervention.

 


Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story mentions that this is a newly published study showing no evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is not directly related to a decreased risk of breast cancer recurrence.  Increasing fruits/vegetables in the diet is not a novel concept.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to be taken directly from a press release and there is independent reporting.

Total Score: 6 of 9 Satisfactory

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