Talking about Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Survivors

There are now over 3 million US breast cancer survivors, with the number of survivors only expected to increase in the years ahead. Today, a new report identified potential links oxn how diet, activity, and weight may affect survival for women diagnosed with breast cancer. McTiernan, Anne

Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Survivors is part of an ongoing, systematic review called the Continuous Update Project (CUP). It’s the most rigorous analysis of the research on diet, weight and physical activity for breast cancer survivors, and it’s the first time a CUP report has focused on survivorship.

Here, Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, the panel lead of this CUP report and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, talks about the report’s findings and what it means.

Q: What did the CUP report look at?

A: The report looked at associations between specific diet patterns and components, weight, and physical activity with mortality from all causes, mortality from breast cancer, and incidence of secondary breast cancer. This report did not look at associations of diet, physical activity, or weight with quality of life, fatigue and many other issues in which lifestyle factors may play a role. Continue reading


Carbs and Pancreatic Cancer: Why “Null Findings” Matter

Say you’re a researcher. You’ve spent months collecting and analyzing data, crunching numbers and composing tables, but it’s all been for naught. That hypothesis you set out to test (say, that a link exists between a specific food and a known indicator of cancer risk) didn’t pan out. In your investigation at least, you found no such link.

You have achieved what in scientific circles is called a “null finding.” And, in a very real sense, that’s not nothing.

Null findings don’t make headlines, and often don’t even get published. (The tendency of journal editors to publish results that seem “new” over those that find no association — or that simply accord with previously published results — is a source of publication bias, which over time can distort the general scientific opinion on a given subject.)

But there is an important difference between a null finding capable of closing the book on a given question — that says, essentially “There’s no there there, move along.” — and a null finding that says simply “We need more and better data before we can make a judgment.”

On those rare occasions when the media do pick up on a null finding, there is a tendency to mistake one kind for another. Let’s take a look at a recent null finding and see what it really has to say. Continue reading


AICR Fact Check: Fiber and Cancer?

Heard a great story about fiber on NPR this morning, all about how food manufacturers add fiber to things like sugary cereals and white bread so they can make claims about fiber and health on the packaging.

We’re pleased that the story makes the point that foods that are naturally high in fiber — vegetables and fruits, whole grains and beans — are better options, but then we heard something that brought us up short:

So are these fiber-fortified foods actually making you healthier? This question turns out to be one of those places where scientists know a lot less than you may think they do. For example, a lot of people think that fiber will help protect you against colon cancer. But so far, that link is not conclusive.

In this case, it’s “a lot of people” who are right, and NPR who’s … well, not wrong, exactly, but imprecise.

Because the evidence that diets high in fiber can and do protect against colorectal cancer is not only strong, it’s just gotten stronger. And with February being Cancer Prevention Month, it’s a good opportunity to remind people of the hard science showing that they can protect themselves from colorectal cancer.  Continue reading