This study analyzed the diet of 341 women before their diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and looked at their cancer survival rates.
They found that patients who ate yellow and cruciferous vegetables prior to their diagnosis had significantly longer survival times, while those who ate meat and drank milk had significantly shorter survival times.
Survival curves for vegetables (left) and yellow vegetables (right). Longer survival with more vegetables, and specifically more yellow vegetables.
Survival curves for meat (left) and milk (right). Longer survival with less meat and less dairy.
It is important to note that this study looked only at dietary habits before the diagnosis of cancer, so tells us nothing about the effects of a dietary change on cancer outcomes (this would be a good question for future studies).
The dairy finding is especially interesting to me. Potential explanations the researchers suggest include: 1) molecules in milk (such as galactose) are directly toxic to the ovaries, and 2) hormones given to cattle for growth (which humans ingest along with the milk) can lead to cancerous growths.
The explanation for meat’s role in lowering cancer survival rates include the following: 1) fat and cholesterol present in meat, 2) hormonal substances given to cattle, 3) carcinogens generated during the processing and preparation of meats, and 4) high iron content of red meat (iron causes oxidative stress leading to DNA damage).
This study provides data for what may seem intuitive to many: that the food we eat before any diagnosis of cancer will influence our ability to survive it.