Cancer incidence and mortality during the intervention and postintervention periods of the women's health initiative dietary modification trial

Cynthia A. Thomson, Linda Van Horn, Bette J. Caan, Aaron K. Aragaki, Rowan T. Chlebowski, Jo Ann E. Manson, Thomas E. Rohan, Lesley F. Tinker, Lewis H. Kuller, Lifang Hou, Dorothy S. Lane, Karen C. Johnson, Mara Z. Vitolins, Ross L. Prentice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background: The Women's Health Initiative (WHI) low-fat (20% kcal) dietary modification (DM) trial (1993-2005) demonstrated a nonsignificant reduction in breast cancer, a nominally significant reduction in ovarian cancer, and no effect on other cancers (mean 8.3 years intervention). Consent to nonintervention follow-up was 83% (n = 37,858). This analysis was designed to assess postintervention cancer risk in women randomized to the low-fat diet (40%) versus usual diet comparison (60%).

Methods: Randomized, controlled low-fat diet intervention for prevention of breast and colorectal cancers conducted in 48,835 postmenopausal U.S. women, ages 50 to 79 years at 40 U.S. sites. Outcomes included total invasive cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer, and cancer-specific and overall mortality.

Results: There were no intervention effects on invasive breast or colorectal cancer, other cancers, or cancer-specific or overall mortality during the postintervention period or the combined intervention and follow-up periods. For invasive breast cancer, the hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were 0.92 (0.84-1.01) during intervention, 1.08 (0.94-1.24) during the postintervention period, and 0.97 (0.89-1.05) during cumulative follow-up. A reduced risk for estrogen receptor positive/progesterone receptor-negative tumors was demonstrated during follow-up. In women with higher baseline fat intake (quartile), point estimates of breast cancer risk were HR, 0.76 (95% CI, 0.62-0.92) during intervention versus HR, 1.11 (95% CI, 0.84-1.4) during postintervention follow-up (Pdiff = 0.03).

Conclusions: Dietary fat intake increased postintervention in intervention women; no long-term reduction in cancer risk or mortality was shown in the WHI DM trial.

Impact: Dietary advisement to reduce fat for cancer prevention after menopause generally was not supported by the WHI DM trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2924-2935
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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