A trial looking at the role of diet, complementary treatment and lifestyle factors in breast cancer survival (DietCompLyf)

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This trial was set up to see if diet, complementary therapies and lifestyle factors have an effect on breast cancer survival.

More about this trial

Some researchers believe that a group of chemicals found in plants, called phytoestrogens may affect breast cancer. Phytoestrogens are similar in structure to a hormone called oestrogen. The evidence about the effect of phytoestrogens on breast cancer varies. The research team hoped to find out more about whether phytoestrogens really affect whether breast cancer comes back (recurrence) or survival.
Some researchers also think that having a healthy lifestyle and using complementary therapies may help improve survival in people with breast cancer. But when this trial started there was little scientific evidence to support this.
This trial looked at the diet and lifestyle of over 3,000 women with breast cancer. The aims of the trial were to find out if the following affect whether breast cancer comes back after treatment and how long people live for:
  • phytoestrogens
  • lifestyle factors 
  • using supplements

Summary of results

The researchers found that women often changed their diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer. They also found that the level of phytoestrogens in the diet did not affect factors associated with how well you are likely to do after treatment for breast cancer (your prognosis).
The trial recruited over 3,000 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They filled out questionnaires which asked them about their diet and lifestyle before and after they were diagnosed with cancer. This included questions about portion sizes, cooking habits, which foods they ate most often and any supplements they took.
In 2011, the research team looked at the information for 1,560 women. These women filled in another questionnaire about a year after they were diagnosed. The research team compared this to what the women ate before they were diagnosed and found they ate
  • 173 fewer calories each day
  • More whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein
  • Less sugar, fat, red meat and refined grains
The trial team continue to follow up the people taking part in this trial. But their initial conclusions were that women with breast cancer significantly changed their dietary habits after their diagnosis. 
In 2013, the research team looked at phytoestrogen intake in 1,797 women to see whether this affected the factors associated with how well the women were likely to do after treatment (their prognosis). The trial team found no evidence that the level of phytoestrogens affected prognosis. However there were some links between phytoestrogens eaten before diagnosis and certain risk factors for breast cancer, such as body weight and having children.
The research team continue to look at if and when cancer comes back in the women in this trial. They are looking at whether diet, and phytoestrogens in particular, affect how long women with breast cancer live for. We will update this page when this information is available.
As well as looking at these factors, researchers are also interested in finding out more about genes and breast cancer cells. A number of research teams are analysing samples of blood and cancer cells from women taking part in this trial, and from women in other trials. They are trying to find out more about things such as:
  • which genes increase or decrease the risk of developing breast cancer 
  • why people develop different types of breast cancer
  • any proteins which they could use to help diagnose breast cancer
  • any proteins which may help doctors find out if the cancer has spread or not
This sort of research takes time. But everything we find out helps us understand more about why breast cancer develops and how best to treat it.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Miriam Dwek

Supported by

Against Breast Cancer
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Deborah wanted to help other breast cancer patients in the future

A picture of Deborah

“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."

Last reviewed:

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