Health benefits of nuts could boost survival, limit recurrence in breast cancer, study finds

A new study suggests eating nuts could help boost survival in people with breast cancer. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Oct. 20 (UPI) — Regular consumption of peanuts, walnuts and other tree nuts boosts survival and reduces risk for disease recurrence in people with breast cancer, a study published Wednesday by the International Journal of Cancer found.

Breast cancer survivors who ate more than one-half ounce of nuts per week had five-year survival rates of up to 95% among people in the study — higher than those without nuts in their diet — the data showed.

In addition, 94% of those who consumed nuts regularly did not experience a recurrence, or return, of their breast cancer within five years of recovery from their initial illness, the researchers said.

“Nut consumption is associated with improved survival, particularly disease-free survival, among long-term breast cancer survivors,” Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu, study co-author, told UPI in an email.

“Nuts are rich in several nutrients, including unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other bioactive constituents, such as phytosterols and phenolic compounds, that have known health benefits,” said Shu, a professor of cancer research at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Previous studies have linked diet with breast cancer risk and survival, and earlier research has documented the health benefits of nutrient-dense foods such as nuts, including in people with breast cancer.

For this study, the researchers compared five-year survival and disease-free survival rates in more than 3,100 people who regularly consumed about a half-ounce of nuts per week to those of roughly 300 who did not eat nuts.

Disease-free survival refers to the time between cancer diagnosis to any recurrence of the tumor or death, the researchers said.

Study participants who consumed nuts regularly had five-year survival and disease-free survival rates of 94%, the data showed.

Those who did not eat nuts had a five-year survival rate of 89% and and disease-free survival rate of 86%, the data showed.

“Many mechanisms of cancer development, such as excessive oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, are shared across cancers,” Shu said.

“Thus, we speculate that benefits of nut consumption that we observed for breast cancer survivors can be extended to survivors of other cancer, though direct evidence on this is needed,” she said.

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