Study: Balanced, low-fat diet linked to lower risk of breast cancer death

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NEW YORK (CBS) Many people are not aware that obesity is a risk factor for cancer. Now new research shows changes in diet can lower a woman's risk of getting breast cancer and dying from the disease.

Cynthia Arrington is meeting with her dietician Kelly Hogan. The 53-year-old breast cancer survivor receives nutritional and wellness counseling at Mount Sinai's Dubin Breast Center.

"I am learning that there are many ways to eat healthier and love what you are eating," Arrington said.

A new study shows women who follow a balanced, low fat diet with increased fruits, vegetables and grains have a 21 percent lower risk of death from breast cancer.

"There are certain things we cannot control about breast cancer recurring or developing in the first place, but the very interesting thing about this study is that this shows us there are things we can control, things like diet, maintaining a healthy body weight," said the center's Dr. Elisa Port.

The study, being presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, looks at nearly 49,000 post menopausal women. One group adopted a low fat diet for eight years, while the other group continued their normal diet. The women who ate low fat were also diagnosed with fewer breast cancers.

Hogan tells patients to eat less red meat and processed foods and sprinkle in some healthy plant-based fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.

Arrington says while she was already eating very healthy before her diagnosis, she's never felt better. "When I got diagnosed it broke my heart because I thought I did all the right things," she said. "I am just living more than ever now and I am excited about life and I love life."

She also gets plenty of exercise to stay healthy.

Researchers also found women who maintained a balanced low-fat diet had an average 3-percent weight loss, but that didn't affect risk of breast cancer death.