Experts question diet said to prevent breast cancer TV reporter/doctor writes best seller promoting idea

November 27, 1998|By NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

NEW YORK -- A new book by NBC medical correspondent Dr. Bob Arnot, "The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet," is a No. 1 best seller that purports to let women in on "the great untold secret" that proper nutrition can "prevent" breast cancer.

"In the end we have uncovered the key elements of a breast-cancer prevention diet," Arnot writes.

There's just one catch:

None of Arnot's main dietary claims is scientifically proven, say experts who have read the book -- including some consulted by Arnot who now say the TV doctor grossly distorted their work.

"At this point, there is simply no evidence to support a diet that will prevent breast cancer," said Susan Islam, chief spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society.

"And people should not feel that it is preventable."

rTC The book, published by Little, Brown and No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list for advice this month, recommends that women eat soy, fish oil and flaxseed to prevent cancer.

It's a conclusion that Arnot concedes is "a bet," but it's a bet "made on a sound analysis of all the current nutritional research," writes Arnot.

He adds that a "fully tested" diet may be 10 years away.

Arnot received his medical degree from McGill University in Montreal in 1974 and has been a full-time medical correspondent since 1984, first at CBS and now at NBC.

"The role of diet in the prevention of breast cancer is promising and worthy of further study, but to make the claim that this diet can 'save your life' is a gross exaggeration," said Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.

She is president of the New York-based American Council on Science and Health, the organization that first raised questions about the book.

In addition to the American Cancer Society and the council, the book has been criticized by the National Cancer Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Washington-based National Breast Cancer Coalition and at least three individual researchers who helped Arnot or his assistants.

Officials at Sloan-Kettering, for instance, said that after discussing the book with Arnot recently, he agreed that references to the famed New York institution will be dropped in future editions, hospital spokeswoman Avice Meehan said.

Arnot, for his part, told the Daily News later that his offer was still "open for debate."

Pub Date: 11/27/98

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