(CBS News) -- Many people are not aware that obesity is a risk factor for cancer.
Now new research shows changes in diet can lower a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer and dying from the disease.
Cynthia Arrington, 53, is a breast cancer survivor and receives nutritional and wellness counseling at Mount Sinai’s Dubin Breast Center.
“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 percent lower risk of death from breast cancer.
“There are certain things we cannot 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,” said Dr. Elisa Port, director at Dubin Breast Center.
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 8 years, while the other group continued their normal diet.
The women who ate low fat were also diagnosed with fewer breast cancers.
Kelly Hogan, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at Dubin Breast Center, said she tells patients to eat less red meat and processed foods and sprinkle in some healthy plant-based fats, like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Arrington says while she was already eating very healthy before her diagnosis, she’s never felt better.
“When I got diagnose, it broke my heart because I thought I did all the right things. I am just living more than ever now. And I am excited about life and I love life,” she said.
She also gets plenty of exercise to stay healthy.
Researchers also found women who maintained a balanced low-fat diet had an average 3-percent weight loss, but that didn’t affect risk of breast cancer death.