PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Many people are not aware that obesity is a risk factor for cancer. 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 dietitian, Kelly Hogan. The 53-year-old breast cancer survivor receives nutritional and wellness counseling.
"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% lower risk of death from breast cancer.
"There are certain things about breast cancer, biologically, that are out of our 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," Dr. Elisa Port, director of the Dublin Breast Center at Mount Sinai, said.
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 diagnosed with fewer breast cancers.
Hogan tells patients to eat less red meat and processed foods and sprinkle in some healthy plant-based fats.
"Nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil," Hogan said.
Hogan 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," Arrington 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% weight loss, but that didn't affect their risk of breast cancer death.
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