New Study Shows Diet May Counter Racial Disparities in Cancer
Paper in Ethnicity and Disease Underscores Urgent Need to Improve Outcomes in Minorities with Breast and Prostate Cancer
WASHINGTON—Simple diet changes could play a key role in reducing racial disparities in breast and prostate cancer risk and survival, say the authors of a new paper in the July issue of Ethnicity and Disease. Hope R. Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., and Neal D. Barnard, M.D., show that race and ethnic group determine, in part, who is at greater risk for cancer and who is less likely to survive.
African-American women, for example, have a higher breast cancer mortality rate compared with white women, despite the fact that fewer are diagnosed with the disease. Yet recent studies show that survival rates could potentially be improved with diet changes since the benefits of a low-fat diet are most apparent in patients with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, the type that African-American women are more likely to have.
“Racial and ethnic disparities are particularly evident for breast and prostate cancer, two malignancies strongly affected by sex hormones in the body,” says Dr. Ferdowsian, the lead author, who is research director at the Washington Center for Clinical Research. “Evidence is mounting that a low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet can alter hormone concentrations in the body, minimizing the hormones’ role in fueling tumor growth.”
“Groups disproportionately affected by breast and prostate cancer stand to gain the most as knowledge of the benefits of a healthy diet becomes more widespread,” Dr. Ferdowsian adds.
For Dr. Ferdowsian, the results of her research are far from theoretical. In addition to leading the Washington Center for Clinical Research, Dr. Ferdowsian cares for underserved patients in the District of Columbia. For the current paper, the authors analyzed data from 26 previously published papers and reports.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.