Breast Cancer and Nutrition: Foods to Eat and Avoid

Breast cancer is a life-threatening disease with many contributing factors. Some of these factors, including age, family history, genetics, and environmental hazards. Some of the factors cannot be controlled but we can reduce its risk by eating healthy foods and following an active lifestyle. Some researchers suggest that dietary factors could be responsible for 30-40% of all cancers. Therefore, change in eating habits, along with regular exercise can have a positive effect on our health thus reducing the risk of cancer.

“Because the majority of breast cancer cases don’t have a genetic link, you have to conclude that lifestyle factors, including diet, play a large role,” says Mary Flynn, R.D., co-author of “The Pink Ribbon Diet” (Da Capo, 2010) and research dietitian at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I.

We at RDX are celebrating breast cancer awareness month by spreading awareness about the causes, prevention, and treatment of this deadly disease. We have compiled a list of foods that may help prevent the development or progression of breast cancer and foods that can cause breast cancer.

Foods to Eat

1. Broccoli

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Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale are rich in antioxidant vitamins C, E, and K, and have high fiber content. They contain glucosinolates, a type of chemical that has cancer-fighting properties. Out of all cruciferous vegetables, Broccoli has gained the most attention as a breast cancer prevention food. Research has shown it blocks tumor growth and prevents the further spread of cancer if it does occur.


2. Apple

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Apple is wonder fruit known for its numerous health benefits but several studies show that apples play a significant role in reducing the risk of breast cancer. Apples are a rich source of quercetin, fisetin, phloretin, and ursolic acid, as well as some anthocyanins all of which have chemopreventive properties. Moreover, apple peel is also great at preventing breast cancer. According to a Cornell University study, apple peel has antioxidants, fiber, and other cancer-fighting compounds that can stop or kill tumor growth in breast cancer cells.


3. Salmon

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Salmon is a great source of vitamin D. Researchers have found that vitamin D is linked to a reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer by 24 percent. Also salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which decrease inflammation in the body as high inflammation triggers breast cancer development. According to a study from the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, women who consumed fish oil supplements had a 32 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer after six years compared to non-users. Another research evaluated the potential effect of omega-3s on women who are obese and have dense breasts. Women with dense breasts are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who have less dense breast tissue. The study found that breast density declined with the amount of omega-3 fatty acid being administered. This helps to reduce the overall risk of breast cancer.

4. Olive Oil

Recent studies suggest olive oil has anti-cancer potential. Researchers in Spain conducted a five-year study of 4,300 women to track how characteristics of a Mediterranean diet impacted breast cancer risk. One group of women consumed extra servings of extra virgin olive oil, another added an extra serving of nuts and the third reduced fat intake. The group supplemented with olive oil had 62 percent fewer cancer diagnoses than the women who only cut back on fat. Olive oil is not only full of risk-reducing antioxidants and phytonutrients including squalene which inhibits tumor growth. It also contains higher monounsaturated fat content than other oils. Monounsaturated fats don’t oxidize in the body. Oxidation, a process that produces chemicals called free radicals, increases cancer risk.

Foods to Avoid

1. Alcohol

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Alcohol is a major risk factor for many cancers, including breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk is to have less than one drink a day as even small amounts increase risk. Regardless of the benefits of resveratrol, a phytochemical in red wine and grapes, studies recommend avoiding alcohol as they have identified a link between drinking regular alcohol and an increased risk of breast cancer. report that alcohol may increase estrogen levels and cause damage to DNA. They also observed that women who drink three alcoholic beverages per week increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 15%.

2. Sugar

Having a sweet tooth can be fatal as sugar trigger cancer cells. According to the journal Cancer Causes and Control, women who reported consuming the most sweets, including desserts, sweetened drinks, and added sugars items had a 27 percent greater risk of breast cancer than women who consumed less. Sweets are higher in refined carbohydrates that increase levels of blood glucose, forcing the body to release insulin. That insulin boosts cancer cells to grow and could result in higher levels of estrogen, which may promote the development of breast cancer.

3. Fat

Fats are healthy for the body but Trans fats present in processed foods like fried foods, canned foods, some crackers, donuts, and pastries are made from vegetable oils or margarine are one of the causes for breast cancer. A 2015 meta-analysis of 52 studies published in the journal Medicine reported that postmenopausal women with the highest saturated fat intake increased their risk of breast cancer by over 30 percent compared to those who ate the least.

4. Red Meat

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Red meat is considered to be unhealthy for the general health and doctors recommend it to limit its intake. Also, processed meats and cold cuts tend to be high in fat, salt, and preservatives. Some studies have found a link between red meat and an increased risk of breast cancer, especially if a person cooks the meat at high temperatures, which can trigger the release of toxins.

It’s no secret that what you eat affects your health. Diet and nutrition is an important aspect of preventing and fighting breast cancer. More research is needed to determine where the impact is greatest.

Diet and nutrition is an important aspect of preventing and fighting breast cancer. Eating the right food is one important way to lower your risk of breast cancer. A healthy diet can also help you get to and stay at a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Always consult your doctor or a dietitian to help develop a meal plan tailored to your requirements and limitations.