Prediagnosis diet quality was associated with mortality and may have a protective effect after ovarian cancer, according to a new study.

Diet quality and the overall influence of diet on ovarian cancer survival was examined by Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD, a professor from the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and University of Arizona Cancer Center researcher, at the University of Arizona in Tucson and colleagues.

The influence of diet, which is a modifiable lifestyle factor and a potential prognostic factor, on survival after an ovarian cancer diagnosis is unclear. Since ovarian cancer has high mortality, identifying lifestyle behaviors that could be modified to influence survival is needed.

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To evaluate diet quality and the overall influence of diet on ovarian cancer survival, analyzed data from 636 cases of ovarian cancer among postmenopausal women within the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study or Clinical Trials from 1993 to 1998. Dietary intake was assessed using food frequency questionnaires and estimates of overall diet quality were measured using the Healthy Eating Index–2005.

They observed that a higher overall dietary quality was associated with a lower risk of mortality compared with lower overall dietary quality. Also, individual dietary components were not associated with mortality after ovarian cancer, suggesting it is the composite of healthy dietary choices that impacts survival.

In subgroup analyses, the relationship between diet quality and mortality was strongest among women with a smaller waist circumference and no history of diabetes. However, physical activity level did not modify the association.

The authors concluded that “… self-reported dietary quality at least 12 months prior to diagnosis was associated with a statistically significant 27% lower risk of death after ovarian cancer.”

The study was published in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2014; doi:10.1093/jnci/dju314).