Dietary fat reduction and breast cancer outcome: interim efficacy results from the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006 Dec 20;98(24):1767-76. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djj494.


Background: Preclinical and observational studies suggest a relationship between dietary fat intake and breast cancer, but the association remains controversial. We carried out a randomized, prospective, multicenter clinical trial to test the effect of a dietary intervention designed to reduce fat intake in women with resected, early-stage breast cancer receiving conventional cancer management.

Methods: A total of 2437 women were randomly assigned between February 1994 and January 2001 in a ratio of 40:60 to dietary intervention (n = 975) or control (n = 1462) groups. An interim analysis was performed after a median follow-up of 60 months when funding for the intervention ceased. Mean differences between dietary intervention and control groups in nutrient intakes and anthropometric variables were compared with t tests. Relapse-free survival was examined using Kaplan-Meier analysis, stratified log-rank tests, and Cox proportional hazards models. Statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: Dietary fat intake was lower in the intervention than in the control group (fat grams/day at 12 months, 33.3 [95% confidence interval {CI} = 32.2 to 34.5] versus 51.3 [95% CI = 50.0 to 52.7], respectively; P<.001), corresponding to a statistically significant (P = .005), 6-pound lower mean body weight in the intervention group. A total of 277 relapse events (local, regional, distant, or ipsilateral breast cancer recurrence or new contralateral breast cancer) have been reported in 96 of 975 (9.8%) women in the dietary group and 181 of 1462 (12.4%) women in the control group. The hazard ratio of relapse events in the intervention group compared with the control group was 0.76 (95% CI = 0.60 to 0.98, P = .077 for stratified log rank and P = .034 for adjusted Cox model analysis). Exploratory analyses suggested a differential effect of the dietary intervention based on hormonal receptor status.

Conclusions: A lifestyle intervention reducing dietary fat intake, with modest influence on body weight, may improve relapse-free survival of breast cancer patients receiving conventional cancer management. Longer, ongoing nonintervention follow-up will address original protocol design plans, which called for 3 years of follow-up after completion of recruitment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / diet therapy
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / diet therapy
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dietary Fats