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"Low-fat diets may curb breast cancer"

Calgary Herald

Source: Calgary Herald

Published: 17 Dec 2021

Category: Other

Rating: (3½ stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

The first experiment ever to show low-fat diets could help prevent a return of breast cancer now reveals, with longer followup, that the benefit was almost exclusively to women whose tumour growth was not driven by hormones.

That could be huge -- the new results suggest, but cannot prove, these women might be able to cut their risk of dying by up to 66 per cent with such diets.

"That's as great or better than any treatment intervention that we've given" for this type of cancer, which is notoriously hard to treat, said Dr. C. Kent Osborne of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who had no role in the study....

The original article can be found at:

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 5 of 8
Availability of Treatment Not Applicable
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Not Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Not Applicable
Evidence Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Satisfactory (?)
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of harms of treatment Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

Stories on diet 'treatments' are difficult to review but this one seemed important as it deals with treatment of women who have had breast cancer. The author is careful to provide some information on the relationship between those quoted and their role in the study, and the sources of study funding. It is somewhat disconcerting to see the use of sensational language in the first two sentences, however, to describe thin results which the reporter later acknowledges by the end of the article. The statement that "the first ever experiment" results "could be huge" is only supported by initial data which "barely reached statistical significance" and longer follow-up data which was "even weaker statistically".

The use of relative risk reductions was somewhat annoying even though the results after five years were reported in absolute terms. For those women whose tumours were not "fuelled by neither estrogen nor progesterone," after five years, "cancer had returned in 9.8 per cent of the diet group and 12.4 per cent of those on standard diets, which translated to a modest 24 per cent lower risk for the group as a whole."
And the final statement comparing survival, where the low fat diet patients fared better (only 6% died) compared to others (17%) translates this into relative terms, a "66 per cent lower risk of death for those who trimmed fat."

We have seen many drug studies where that impressive 66% relative risk reduction was the story's lead sentence so it is somewhat comforting that while this diet study will continue, they've reported initial results with cautious caveats.

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