(HealthDay News) — High-quality diets are associated with decreased risks of overall and cancer-specific mortality among cancer survivors, according to a study published online in JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

Ashish A. Deshmukh, PhD, MPH, from the University of Florida in Gainesville, and colleagues examined the relationship between quality of diet and overall and cancer-specific mortality among 1191 cancer survivors participating in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Higher Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores indicated better adherence to dietary recommendations.

The researchers found that 607 cancer-specific deaths occurred over the median follow-up period of 17.2 years. Scores in the highest HEI quartile, indicating a high-quality diet, were associated with decreased risk of overall (hazard ratio, 0.59) and cancer-specific (hazard ratio, 0.35) mortality versus the lowest HEI quartile (poor-quality diet). Among individual dietary components, the highest-quartile score for saturated fat intake was associated with lower cancer-specific mortality (hazard ratio, 0.55).

“Our results highlight the importance of a ‘total diet’ approach to improving survival among cancer patients,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to Gilead and Merck.

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Deshmukh AA, Shirvani SM, Likhacheva A, Chhatwal J, Chiao EY, and Sonawane K. The Association Between Dietary Quality and Overall and Cancer-Specific Mortality Among Cancer Survivors, NHANES III. JNCI Canc Spect, April 2018;2(2). DOI:10.1093/jncics/pky022