Cutting back on fat per se does not protect against cancer and heart disease, at least in the short run. That conclusion comes from the latest results from the ongoing Women's Health Initiative, which has followed nearly 49,000 women aged 50 to 79 for the past eight years. One group reduced fat consumption 8 to 10 percent over the duration of the trial compared with a control group. Overall, the two groups had statistically indistinguishable rates of colon cancer and heart disease and just a marginal reduction in breast cancer risk of 9 percent, although chance could have accounted for that outcome. Researchers report the findings in three studies published February 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Continued follow-up might yet bump the marginal findings into the statistically significant range, says Ross Prentice of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, lead author of the breast cancer study.