Lifestyle Matters: Dietary Factors Influence Ovarian Cancer Survival Rates

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers identify relationship between healthy eating and prolonged ovarian cancer survival

UIC researchers find that consumption of cruciferous & yellow vegetables provide an ovarian cancer survival advantage

Therese A. Dolecek, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Institute for Health Research & Policy, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

A study published in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA), is among the first to evaluate possible diet associations with ovarian cancer survival. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) determined that there is a strong relationship between healthy eating and prolonged survival.

The subjects included 351 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer between 1994 to 1998, who participated in a previous case-control study. The original study collected demographic, clinico-pathologic, and lifestyle-related variables including diet. Each subject completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) in which they were asked to report their usual dietary intake during the three to five year period prior to their diagnosis.

To translate the diet estimates in a meaningful way, the FFQ items were assigned to the major food groups reflected in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 (DGA), including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy, fats and oils, sweets, and alcohol. Grains, meats, and dairy were further subdivided into “suggested” and “other” groups. The “suggested” subdivisions included healthier food choices, whereas the “other” subdivisions contained less desirable selections.

The researchers found that higher total fruit and vegetable consumption, and higher vegetable consumption alone led to a survival advantage. A subgroup analyses revealed that only yellow and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, kale, cauliflower, bok choy) significantly increased survival advantage. At five years, 75% of the women who ate less than one serving a week of yellow vegetables were alive, compared to about 82% of those who had three or more servings of yellow vegetables a week.  Likewise, a statistically significant improvement in survival was observed for the healthier grains.

Higher intakes of less-healthy meats — specifically the red and cured/processed meats subgroups — were associated with a survival disadvantage. Notably, the researchers found a 3-fold increased risk of dying for those women who ate four or more servings of red meat a week compared to those who ate less than one serving per week over the 11-year study period.

A survival disadvantage was also observed in connection with consumption of the milk (dairy – all types) subgroup. Women who had seven or more servings of milk of any type per week were two times as likely to die during the study period as those who had none.  The researchers stress that the milk finding should be interpreted cautiously, because it may have something to do with the fact that some women are genetically predisposed.

Therese A. Dolecek, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute for Health Research and Policy, School of Public Health, UIC, and a member of the Cancer Control and Population Science Research Program at the UIC Cancer Center, and her colleagues state the following in the article:

The study findings suggest that food patterns three to five years prior to a diagnosis of epithelial ovarian cancer have the potential to influence survival time. The pre-diagnosis food patterns observed to afford a survival advantage after an epithelial ovarian cancer diagnosis reflect characteristics commonly found in plant-based or low fat diets. These diets generally contain high levels of constituents that would be expected to protect against cancer and minimize ingestion of known carcinogens found in foods.

In an interview with WebMD.com, Dr. Dolecek said:  “To pinpoint exactly how much survival [was lengthened] is not possible. It varies from person to person.”  Many factors affect survival, such as the stage of the cancer at diagnosis and the woman’s age.

Cynthia A. Thomson, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson

David S. Alberts, M.D., Director, Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, Arizona

In an editorial commentary in the same JADA issue, Cynthia A. Thomson, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, and David S. Alberts, M.D., Director, Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, write the following:

The authors provide new evidence that dietary factors, particularly total fruit and vegetable, red and processed meat and milk intakes, may influence ovarian cancer survival. These findings corroborate earlier work by Nagle et. al. and are among only a select few studies of dietary associations with ovarian cancer recurrence and/or prognosis despite a significant and growing body of literature suggesting diet may influence ovarian cancer risk.

About The Journal of the American Dietetic Association

As the official journal of the American Dietetic Association (www.eatright.org), the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA) (www.adajournal.org) is the premier source for the practice and science of food, nutrition and dietetics. The monthly, peer-reviewed journal presents original articles prepared by scholars and practitioners and is the most widely read professional publication in the field. JADA focuses on advancing professional knowledge across the range of research and practice issues such as: nutritional science, medical nutrition therapy, public health nutrition, food science and biotechnology, food service systems, leadership and management and dietetics education.

About The American Dietetic Association

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) (www.eatright.org) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

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Libby’s H*O*P*E* to Present At NOCC 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo (REJUVENATE Finding Balance)

On March 20, 2010, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (Maryland Chapter) will hold its 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo entitled, REJUVENATE Finding Balance (NOCC Rejuvenate), at the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel. … On behalf of Libby’s H*O*P*E*™, I will conduct a seminar as part of Session II entitled, A Patient Advocate’s Perspective on the Importance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Related On-line Resources.

On March 20, 2010, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (Maryland Chapter) will hold its 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo entitled, REJUVENATE Finding Balance (NOCC Rejuvenate), at the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel. NOCC Rejuvenate is sponsored by the National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Connection and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  Additional funding was also provided through a grant from the Maryland Attorney General Settlement.

NOCC Rejuvenate is designed to appeal to all women who want to rejuvenate their mind, body and spirit. The event is divided into three sessions. Each session offers seven to eight different seminars for attendees. The seminars address a variety of topics including make-up and skin care, going green, photography, plastic surgery, decorating, fashion, finance, retirement solutions, nutrition, fitness, and holistic approaches to wellness. A list of all event seminars is provided below.

Informative seminars about ovarian and breast cancer are offered as part of each session. Knowing the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, the screening guidelines for breast cancer, and the basics about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, could save your life or the life of someone you love.  On behalf of Libby’s H*O*P*E*™, I will conduct a seminar as part of Session II entitled, A Patient Advocate’s Perspective on the Importance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Related On-line Resources.  My presentation will address the genesis of the Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ website; highlight critical ovarian cancer awareness information; summarize available online ovarian cancer and cancer-related resources; describe stories of hope involving ovarian cancer survivors and their families; and explain how each individual can make a difference in the fight against ovarian cancer.

NOCC Rejuvenate also targets cancer survivors. The devastating effects of these diseases can rob women of hope and peace. This event will offer an opportunity for survivors to reinvent their self-image and gain more knowledge, offering a sense of hope and a chance to connect with other survivors.

An exhibitor’s area will be offered at the event. This area will include informational tables as well as vendor tables that have been specifically chosen to meet the overarching vision of the event. At the completion of the three event sessions, a nutritious lunch will be served while information is provided on the signs and symptoms of ovarian and breast cancer.

NOCC 6th Annual Women's Health Expo

What:  National Ovarian Cancer Coalition 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo entitled, REJUVENTE Finding Balance (click here to view event brochure, including mail-in registration)

When: Saturday, March 20, 2010 (8:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.)

Where: Sheraton Annapolis Hotel, 173 Jennifer Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21401 (driving instructions).

Register: To register online click here.

Contact: Nancy Long (NOCC Maryland Chapter Co-President) at 443-433-2597, or email (click here).

Keynote Speaker:  Yarrow, The Energy Whisperer

Session I Presentations (9:30 A.M. – 10:30 A.M.)

  • Treating Cancer By Alternative Medicine
  • The Survivors’ Connection
  • The Skinny on Fat – Cancer Prevention Naturally
  • Interior Design in Difficult Times – Cost Saving Design Solutions
  • Relaxation & Healing
  • Identifying & Solving the Challenges of Baby Boomer Women
  • Cancer and The Healing Power of Forgiveness
  • Belly Dancing

Session II Presentations (10:45-11:45)

  • Dr. Zandra Cheng, Breast Surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Center
  • Hereditary Syndromes That Include Ovarian and Breast Cancers
  • Facial & Body Rejuvenation
  • A Patient Advocate’s Perspective On the Importance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness & Related On-line Resources (Paul Cacciatore, Founder, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™)
  • Designing Green Interiors
  • Creating Better Images with the Camera You Own
  • Some Expert Fashion Tips
  • Yoga:  A Balanced Life
  • Relaxation & Healing

Session III Presentations (12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M.)

  • New Advances in Ovarian Cancer (William McGuire, M.D., Medical Director of The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute at Franklin Square Hospital)
  • What is My Daughter’s Chance of Getting My Cancer?
  • Planning for your Retirement Lifestyle:  The New Retirement
  • Super Health Begins with Super-food Nutrition
  • Around the World to Your Backyard
  • Balancing Your Life Wheel
  • Get Fit & Healthy with the Simple Rules of the Big 3
  • Relaxation & Healing

About the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

The mission of the NOCC is to raise awareness and increase education about ovarian cancer. NOCC is committed to improving the survival rate and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer. Through national programs and local Chapter initiatives, the NOCC’s goal is to make more people aware of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer. In addition, the NOCC provides information to assist the newly diagnosed patient, to provide hope to survivors, and to support caregivers. NOCC programs are possible only with the help of its volunteers; committed men and women dedicated to the mission of the NOCC in communities across the country.  For more information go to http://www.ovarian.org/.

About the National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Connection

The mission of the NBOCC is to raise awareness and educate the general public about the link between breast and ovarian cancer. The organization is dedicated to teaching all women about their inherent risks and how to improve their chances of survival through early detection and research developments.  For more information go to http://www.nbocc.org/.

Meet Laurey Masterton, 20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire

To call Laurey Masterton an “overachiever” is akin to calling Lance Armstrong a “decent” bike rider. …On March 6, 2009, Laurey dipped her rear bicycle tire into the Pacific Ocean (San Diego, CA), and started a 58-day, 3100-mile trek that will culminate in the dipping of her front bicycle tire into the Atlantic Ocean (St. Augustine, FL) on or about April 30th. … The purpose of her bike trip is to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. …

To call Laurey Masterton an “overachiever” is akin to calling Lance Armstrong a “decent” bike rider.   A few of Laurey’s amazing talents and achievements (past & present) include the following:

Laurey Masterton, 20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor, Bikes Across America to Raise Awareness About the Early Warning Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer (Photo Source: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance)

Laurey Masterton, 20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor, Bikes Across America to Raise Awareness About the Early Warning Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer (Photo Source: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance)

  • Graduate from the University of New Hampshire;
  • Outward Bound Instructor who co-created and instructed the first Outward Bound courses for cancer survivors at The North Carolina Outward Bound School;
  • Intern for Nora Pouillion, the creator of the first 100 percent certified organic restaurant in the U.S.;
  • Founder of Laurey’s Catering & Gourmet to Go, a very successful catering business and shop for “gourmet comfort food;”
  • Author of Elsie’s Biscuits:Simple Stories of Me, My Mother, and Food, a “culinary memoir-with recipesin which she tells about growing up in the golden light of a small inn, losing her parents as a child, and then finding her way back to them through food and stories;
  • In 1999, Laurey was awarded the Small Business Leader of the Year for both Asheville, North Carolina and the state of North Carolina;
  • In 2001, Laurey was the recipient of  The Athena Award, which promotes women’s leadership and honors outstanding leaders;
  • Board Chair of  the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce;
  • Board Member of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project;
  • Participant in local farm-to-table initiatives, with a particular interest in helping children experience gardening, cooking and the eating of “real food;”
  • Glassblowing student, who collects sea urchins, antique chafing dishes, and old Clementine boxes;
  • Italian speaking leader of guided culinary tours to the Tuscany region of Italy and the Provence region of France;
  • Active long-distance bike rider and beekeeper;
  • Resident of Asheville, North Carolina, where she lives with her partner Chris and her dog Tye;
  • Follower of the motto “don’t postpone joy;” and
  • 20-year survivor of ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest cancers affecting women today.

Yup, I “buried the lead” as they say in journalism.  Laurey is a 20-year ovarian cancer survivor who fully recognizes and appreciates her good fortune.  As you probably guessed by now, the appreciation of good fortune is simply not enough for Laurey.   On March 6, 2009, Laurey dipped her rear bicycle tire into the Pacific Ocean (San Diego, CA), and started a 58-day, 3100-mile trek that will culminate in the dipping of her front bicycle tire into the Atlantic Ocean (St. Augustine, FL) on or about April 30th. The purpose of her bike trip is to raise awareness about the warning signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and the dire need for early detection.  In an interview with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA), Laurey said, “Being a 20-year ovarian cancer survivor is a special victory because sadly most of its victims don’t reach this milestone. I’m one of the lucky ones because I was able to feel symptoms early on and was diagnosed in Stage I. I was in touch with my body, I knew something was wrong, I was persistent with the doctors and it saved my life. Early detection and awareness of ovarian cancer is the message that I want my bike ride to convey.”

Historically ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer” because symptoms were not thought to develop until the chance of cure was poor. However, recent studies have shown this term is untrue and that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population. These symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

As in Laurey’s case, women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms. Women who have these symptoms daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation can lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease which is associated with an improved prognosis.  Additional symptoms can include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities.

The ovarian cancer facts and figures published by the American Cancer Society in 2008 note the following:

  • Ovarian cancer can afflict adolescent, young adult, and mature women, although the risk of disease increases with age and peaks in the late 70s. Pregnancy and the long-term use of oral contraceptives reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • There is no reliable screening test for the detection of early stage ovarian cancer. Pelvic examination only occasionally detects ovarian cancer, generally when the disease is advanced.  However, the combination of a thorough pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for the tumor marker CA125 can be offered to women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer and to women who have persistent, unexplained symptoms like those listed above.
  • If diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5-year ovarian cancer survival rate is 92%; however, only about 19% of all cases are detected at this stage, usually fortuitously during another medical procedure.
  • Ovarian cancer incidence rates are highest in Western industrialized countries.
  • Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers among women and ranks #2 among gynecologic cancers.
  • An estimated 21,650 new ovarian cancer cases were diagnosed in the U.S.
  • An estimated 15,520 ovarian cancer deaths occurred.
  • Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

Prior to starting her trip, Laurey Masterton raised a portion of her $50,000 goal amount that will be donated to (i) OCNA, in support of its work on research, education, and awareness essential to the fight against ovarian cancer, and (ii) the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), an organization that promotes and enhances the education, advancement and connection of women in the culinary industry. In turn, the OCNA and WCR are partnering with Laurey in her efforts to raise ovarian cancer awareness.  “Laurey is an inspiration to women everywhere to never give up and always to have hope no matter how big the obstacle,” says Karen Orloff Kaplan, CEO of OCNA. “We are delighted to support Laurey throughout her bike ride and help her reach her goals in bringing more attention to ovarian cancer.”

Laurey is journaling online in “real time” about various aspects of her ongoing bike trip at www.laureybikes.blogspot.com. On Saturday, March 14th, Laurey stopped at Apache Junction, Arizona to chat with several ovarian cancer survivors. In one of Laurey’s most touching journal entries to date, entitled A morning to chat, Laurey writes:

mastertonphoenixstop1

(Photo Source: Laurey Bikes at http://www.laureybikes.blogspot.com)

*     *     *

These sweet lovelies came to see me off this morning. FIRST thing! Ovarian cancer survivors (the woman on my left is a 38 year survivor!) and supporters, they arrived, armed with teal feather boas and a video camera and good questions. The sun rose over those fragrant eucalyptus trees and we talked about riding and surviving and persisting in the face of chemotherapy or miles and miles of uphill, bumpy roads.

Before I left Asheville I had a Reiki session with a friend and told her that I was not sure I was doing the right thing by leaving my business and my home and my friends and my life to go gallivanting around on my red Trek. She said I would find signs to tell me I WAS doing the right thing. She said, “Your spirit guides will tell you. They especially like to show themselves in the form of pennies and feathers.”

Ha!

Here they are.

*     *     *


I encourage everyone to check out Laurey’s Google Map below, which sets forth her anticipated travel route and stops.  As of this writing, Laurey was leaving Lordsburg, New Mexico, so please visit Laurey’s blog to learn how you can support her during her cross-country bike ride.

If I were a betting man, I would say that there is no doubt that Laurey will complete her cross country trek, while educating thousands of women about the warning signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, and the need for early detection. Throughout her entire life, Laurey did not allow difficult life circumstances and past achievements to define her. Nothing has changed. She always moves forward, living by the motto “don’t postpone joy.”  Laurey not only represents a strong role model for ovarian cancer survivors, she is an inspiring and passionate role model for anyone with a heartbeat.

Babe Ruth, the legendary baseball player, once said, “It’s hard to beat a person who refuses to give up.”  A word to the wise:  Never bet against Laurey because the word “quit” is not in her vocabulary!

In the video below, TV Personality and Chef Sara Moulton conducts an intimate interview with Laurey Masterton regarding her cross country bike ride to raise awareness about the early warnings signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

TV Personality & Chef Sara Moulton Interviews Laurey Masterton

About the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) is the nation’s vision and voice for ovarian cancer issues. The OCNA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, leads the national initiative to conquer ovarian cancer by uniting individuals and local, state and national organizations in a consolidated movement to advance ovarian cancer research, improve health care practice and find an effective screening test and a cure for the disease. To learn more about the OCNA, visit its website at www.ovariancancer.org.

About the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs

The mission of  Women Chefs & Restaurateurs is to promote and enhance the education, advancement and connection of women in the culinary industry. Formed in 1993 by eight of the nation’s top women chefs and restaurateurs, WCR has grown to a membership of over 2,000 members, offering a variety of networking, professional and support services. To learn about WCR, visit its website at www.womenchefs.org.
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Primary Source20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor Celebrates Golden Birthday – Chef Laurey Masterton Bikes 3,098 Miles Across US to Raise Awareness About Ovarian Cancer, Press Release, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, March 4, 2009.  Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ would like to extend a special thank you to Laurey Masterton and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance for allowing us to feature Laurey’s story along with her photographs and google map.

Let the Sunshine In!

“People with a vitamin D deficiency are as much as twice as likely to die compared to people whose blood contains higher amounts of the so-called sunshine vitamin, Austrian researchers said on Monday. Their study — the latest to suggest a health benefit from the vitamin — showed death rates from any cause as well as from heart-related problems varied greatly depending on vitamin D. ‘This is the first association study that shows vitamin D affects mortality regardless of the reason for death,’ said Harald Dobnig, an internist and endocrinologist at the University of Graz in Austria who led the study. …Many doctors agree that people with low levels of vitamin D cannot make up for it safely by sitting in the sun, but should take supplements. ‘These results should prompt us to perform vitamin D measurements on a more frequent basis especially in populations at risk,’ Dobnig said.”

“People with a vitamin D deficiency are as much as twice as likely to die compared to people whose blood contains higher amounts of the so-called sunshine vitamin, Austrian researchers said on Monday. Their study — the latest to suggest a health benefit from the vitamin — showed death rates from any cause as well as from heart-related problems varied greatly depending on vitamin D. ‘This is the first association study that shows vitamin D affects mortality regardless of the reason for death,’ said Harald Dobnig, an internist and endocrinologist at the University of Graz in Austria who led the study.

The body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, a reason for its nickname as the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ It is added to milk and fatty fish like salmon but many people do not get enough of it. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is considered important for bone health. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, and it can lead to rickets in children. A number of recent studies have also indicated vitamin D may offer a variety of other health benefits, including protecting against cancer, peripheral artery disease and tuberculosis. Last week, U.S. researchers said vitamin D may extend the lives of people with colon and rectal cancer.

Dobnig and colleagues, who reported their findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine, studied more than 3,200 people with an average age of 62 who were scheduled for a heart exam between 1997 and 2000. During an eight-year follow-up the researchers found that the quarter of volunteers with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood were at greater risk of dying. ‘Even when accounting for factors such as heart disease, exercise and other conditions, the researchers found that the risk was double for people with between 5 to 10 nanograms per millilitre of vitamin D in their blood,’ Dobnig said. ‘Most doctors believe people should have between 20 to 30 nanograms per millilitre of the vitamin in their blood,’ he added in a telephone interview.

What causes this effect is not clear, but Dobnig pointed to a host of studies suggesting links to high blood pressure, cancer and fractures as places to begin looking. ‘The potential health risk of low levels of vitamin D should also prod physicians to be more aware of the potential problem, especially for the immobile, elderly and others who spend a great amount of time indoors,’ he added. Many doctors agree that people with low levels of vitamin D cannot make up for it safely by sitting in the sun, but should take supplements. ‘These results should prompt us to perform vitamin D measurements on a more frequent basis especially in populations at risk,’ Dobnig said.”

[Quoted Source: Study shows more benefits of sunshine vitamin, by Michael Kahn, Reuters Health On-Line News Release, June 24, 2008 (summarizing the findings of Independent association of low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin d levels with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality; Dobnig, H. et. al., Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jun 23;168(12):1340-9.)]

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