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Vasomotor symptoms, adoption of a low-fat dietary pattern, and risk of invasive breast cancer: a secondary analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled dietary modification trial

PURPOSE: To assess whether the effect of a low-fat dietary pattern on breast cancer incidence varied by report of baseline vasomotor symptoms. METHODS: Postmenopausal women age 50 to 79 years enrolled onto the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Dietary Modification trial from 1993 to 1998 were randomly assigned to a low-fat dietary intervention (n = 19,541) or comparison (n = 29,294). Presence of vasomotor symptoms at baseline was ascertained from a 34-item self-report symptom inventory. Women were queried semi-annually for a new diagnosis of breast cancer. Each case report was verified by medical record and pathology report review by centrally trained WHI physician adjudicators. RESULTS: Among participants who reported hot flashes (HFs) at baseline (n = 3,375), those assigned to the low-fat diet had a breast cancer rate of 0.27 compared with their counterparts in the control group who had a rate of 0.41 (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.65; 95% CI, 0.42 to 1.01). Among women reporting no HFs (n = 45,160), the breast cancer rate was 0.42 in those assigned to the low-fat diet compared with 0.46 in the control group (HR = 0.93; 95% CI, 0.84 to 1.03; P for interaction = .12 by HF status). Furthermore, the dietary benefits observed seemed to be specific to estrogen receptor (ER) -positive/progesterone receptor (PR) -positive tumors (ER positive/PR positive v other, P for risk = .03). Although women with and without HFs differed with regard to breast cancer risk factors, the effect of the diet intervention on breast cancer incidence by HF status was consistent across risk factor strata. CONCLUSION: The results of this trial, which are hypothesis generating, suggest that HFs may identify a subgroup of postmenopausal women whose risk of invasive breast cancer might be reduced with the adoption of a low-fat eating pattern.

Authors: Caan BJ; Aragaki A; Thomson CA; Stefanick ML; Chlebowski R; Hubbell FA; Tinker L; Vitolins M; Rajkovic A; Bueche M; Ockene J

J Clin Oncol. 2009 Sep 20;27(27):4500-7. Epub 2009 Aug 17.

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