Although African-American have a lower risk for developing ovarian cancer compared to Caucasian women, they have a higher chance of dying from it. Presented at the Eighth American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Conference, a new study has found that a healthy diet can significantly reduce a black woman’s risk for ovarian cancer.

In their lifetime, about one in 75 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Around half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years old or older. "As a high quality diet is likely to have benefits for many chronic conditions, it is probably a safe bet for better health in general," said the study's author, Dr. Bo (Bonnie) Qin, a postdoctoral associate at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in a statement.

Qin and her colleagues evaluated the efficiency of three dieting plans: the 2005 Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2005), the 2010 Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010), and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010). The research team used the African-American Cancer Epidemiology Study to analyze the diets of 425 women with ovarian cancer and 629 control patients. Participants were asked about their diet in the year leading up to their diagnosis or up to when the interview was conducted.

African-American women from the study with the highest adherence to the AHEI-2010 diet were 34 percent less likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer compared to women with the lowest adherence to the AHEI-2010. Furthermore, postmenopausal women in the highest quartile of HEI-2010 scores were 43 percent less likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer while the risk for women in the highest quartile of AHEI-2010 was around 51 percent.

"Because there is currently no reliable screening available for ovarian cancer, most cases are diagnosed at advanced stages," Qin added. "That highlights a critical need for identifying modifiable lifestyle factors, including dietary interventions."

Researchers attributed a lower risk for ovarian cancer among the AHEI-2010 group to the diets emphasis on more total vegetables, greens, beans, seafood, and plant proteins, coupled with eliminating the empty calories found in solids fats, alcohol, and added sugars. Lower risk among women in the HEI-2010 group was similarly tied to higher vegetable intake and lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice. The AHEI-2010 also provides specific recommendations for protein and fat sources, including nuts, legumes, and omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Source: Qin B, et al. Dietary quality and ovarian cancer risk in African-American women. Eighth American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Conference. 2015.