Home Page
Consumers' Section

E-mail this page   Printable View

Ovarian Cancer: Nutritional Considerations

The role of nutrition in ovarian cancer is not yet firmly established. However, the following nutritional steps are under investigation for a possible role in preventing ovarian cancer:

  • Avoiding or reducing meat consumption: A high intake of fat may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, perhaps by as much as 25 percent. Most of this risk is attributed to saturated fat intake. Various food sources of saturated fat have been implicated, including meat, eggs, and whole milk.

    Animal fat and meat are thought to increase risk by influencing estrogen activity and blood concentrations of insulin–like growth factor–1 (IGF–1), a hormone that has been implicated in several cancers, including ovarian cancer.
  • Avoiding milk: Saturated fat aside, even women who drink skim or low–fat milk in small amounts (one or more servings per day) have a greater risk for ovarian cancer. This may be due to the hormones and growth factors present in milk.
  • A diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables: Women whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables appear to have a reduced risk of developing ovarian cancer. This may be due to their high levels of carotenoids, such as beta–carotene and lutein, and folate (especially in green leafy vegetables).
  • A diet rich in vitamin E: Higher intake of food sources of vitamin E (including whole grains, wheat germ, and nuts) is associated with a 40 percent lower risk for ovarian cancer.

    It is not yet known if taking vitamin E supplements results in the same protective effect. Some evidence indicates that taking at least 75 mg per day of vitamin E pills is associated with lower risk. Other studies indicate this benefit is evident only with long–term (longer than 10 years) supplementation.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight: Obesity in adolescence or early adulthood may double the risk for ovarian cancer. The same low–fat, plant–based diet that lowers cancer risk generally also helps trim excess body weight.
  • Moderate alcohol intake: Alcohol–containing beverages do not appear to increase the risk for ovarian cancer. Studies suggest that alcohol intake may even be protective against this cancer in patients who have a high intake of folate. However, given the health risks of alcohol consumption, including increased breast cancer risk, alcohol use cannot be recommended as a prevention strategy.
  • Green tea consumption: Drinking at least one cup of green tea per day may lower the risk for developing ovarian cancer.
  • Consider a consultation with a registered dietician to help make the appropriate dietary changes.

Nutrition for survival

Women with established ovarian cancer who consume vegetable–rich diets may have improved survival. In one study, women who consumed the most vegetables had a 25 percent lower death rate, compared with women who ate the fewest vegetables.

Of note, some studies suggest that a benefit only occurs in women who eat at least three servings of vegetables daily. Other studies suggest that the benefit primarily occurs when women increase their intake during adolescence.

Green tea has been associated with a lower mortality risk in women with established ovarian cancer.


<< Ovarian Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment