October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors that cannot be controlled, there are some things you can control, which research shows may significantly reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess body weight and postmenopausal weight gain are associated with breast cancer.
- Exercise: Women who get regular exercise (physical activity) have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who are inactive or don’t exercise regularly. Overall studies show regular exercise is linked to a 10-20% decreased risk.
- Plant-based diets: Healthy, plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats are rich in fiber, phytonutrients, flavonoids, polyphenols, and carotenoids which may reduce your risk of developing cancer.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Sulforaphane found in foods like broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, arugula, radishes, and bok choy have powerful antioxidant and anticancer properties.
- Allium class foods: Garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, and scallions contain sulfur compounds which may be protective against the development of breast cancer.
- Vitamin D: Research suggests that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Green tea: This potent tea contains antioxidants that may help protect cells from DNA damage caused by free radicals and reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Turmeric: The anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric may limit the growth of breast cancer cells.
- Fiber: Increasing your fiber intake may help decrease circulating estrogen, which can be a factorin the development and spread of some types of breast cancer. Aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines as well as walnuts, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil may reduce your overall risk of developing breast cancer.
- Avoid Alcohol: Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer.
Although no one food, in particular, can prevent breast cancer, your overall dietary pattern can have a significant impact on reducing your risk, while benefiting your overall health.
(1) 15 Foods to Prevent Breast Cancer – healthline.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/breast-cancer/foods-to-prevent-breast-cancer.
(2) Breast cancer: How to reduce your risk. (2018, December 1). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/breast-cancer-prevention/art-20044676.
(3) Dresden, D. (2019, July 22). Breast cancer diet: Foods to eat and avoid. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316720.php.
(4) Drinking Alcohol. (2016, August 30). Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/alcohol.
(5) Lack of Exercise. (2016, September 26). Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/exercise.
(6) Low Vitamin D Levels and Breast Cancer Risk. (2016, August 30). Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/low_vit_d.
(7) National Comprehensive Cancer Network. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nccn.org/patients/resources/life_after_cancer/nutrition.aspx
(8) New study estimates preventable cancer burden linked to poor diet in the US. (2019, May 22). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190522141814.htm.
(9) Ramirez, A. G. (n.d.). Eating to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk. Retrieved from https://ww5.komen.org/Blog/Eating-to-Reduce-Breast-Cancer-Risk/.