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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Breast Cancer Research > Table 57: Total fat intake and breast cancer survival


Table 57: Total fat intake and breast cancer survival

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Breast cancer survival rates vary from country to country. Many researchers have wondered whether these differences in survival may be due, in part, to differences in diet. Fat intake is of special interest. Studies have looked at whether eating a low-fat diet after breast cancer diagnosis improves survival. Findings are mixed. 

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

Study selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies with at least 150 participants.

All studies measured fat intake after breast cancer diagnosis.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.  


Study Population
(number of participants)


 Overall Mortality in Breast Cancer Survivors who Ate a Diet High in Total Fat After Diagnosis Compared to Those who Ate a Diet Low in Total Fat,
RR (95% CI)

Randomized controlled trials 

Women's Healthy Eating and Living Study [1]



0.91 (0.72-1.15)*

Women's Intervention Nutrition Study [2]



0.89 (0.65-1.21)† 

Prospective cohort studies 

Collaborative Women’s Longevity Study [3]




Nurses’ Health Study [4]



0.89 (0.61-1.28)

Danish Breast Cancer Cooperative Group [5]



0.96 (0.75-1.22)

Borugian et al. [6]



Premenopausal women:
4.8 (1.3-18.1)

Postmenopausal women:

0.7 (0.2-2.2)

Rohan et al. [7]



1.40 (0.66-2.96)

NS = Results are not statistically significant.

* Results also showed no significant difference in disease-free survival with RR = 0.96 (0.80-1.14).

† Although results found no difference in overall survival, women in the lower dietary fat group had better disease-free survival compared to the control group. 


1. Pierce JP, Natarajan L, Caan BJ, et al. Influence of a diet very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat on prognosis following treatment for breast cancer: the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) randomized trial. JAMA. 298(3):289-98, 2007.

2. Chlebowski RT, Blackburn GL, Thomson CA, et al. Dietary fat reduction and breast cancer outcome: interim efficacy results from the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 98(24):1767-76, 2006.

3. Beasley JM, Newcomb PA, Trentham-Dietz A, et al. Post-diagnosis dietary factors and survival after invasive breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 128(1):229-36, 2011.

4. Holmes MD, Chen WY, Hankinson SE, Willett WC. Physical activity’s impact on the association of fat and fiber intake with survival after breast cancer. Am J Epidemiol. 170(10):1250-56, 2009.

5. Ewertz M, Gillanders S, Meyer L, et al. Survival of breast cancer patients in relation to factors which affect the risk of developing breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 49(4):526-30, 1991.

6. Borugian MJ, Sheps SB, Kim-Sing C, et al. Insulin, macronutrient intake, and physical activity: are potential indicators of insulin resistance associated with mortality from breast cancer? Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 13:1163-72, 2004.

7. Rohan TE, Hiller JE, McMichael AJ. Dietary factors and survival from breast cancer. Nutr Cancer. 20(2):167-77, 1993.

Updated 05/16/14