Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I would like to talk about how to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Every year about 230,000 are diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 40,000 die from it.
To demonstrate how dramatically lifestyle choices can impact breast cancer risk, researchers followed a group of about 30,000 postmenopausal women with no history of breast cancer, over the course of about seven years. The results showed that following just three lifestyle recommendations of limiting alcohol, eating mostly plant foods, and maintaining a normal body weight was associated with a 62 percent lower risk of breast cancer.
Today I would like to focus on diet.
The first step is to add cancer protective foods including:
- Trade calorie dense foods for nutrient dense foods. Simply put, load up your plate with plant foods which contain lots of water and fiber and little meat. This will allow you to feel full on fewer calories. Also, calorie dense meals promote weight gain and obesity, and excess body fat is a primary cause of many cancers.
- Eat foods rich in phytochemicals. These give plants color, odor and flavor, and once we eat them they influence the chemical processes inside our bodies in beneficial ways. For instance, they stimulate the immune system, block and remove carcinogens from our body, reduce inflammation, prevent DNA damage, reduce oxidative damage, help regulate hormones, and trigger the destruction of damaged cells before they reproduce.
- Eat whole grain products. The outer layer of a grain is rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins and important phytochemicals like phenols. When a whole grain is refined, however, it loses the outer layer and even when enriched, they still don’t possess the health benefits.
- Get plenty of soluble fiber in the form of beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables and plenty of insoluble fiber found in many nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Remove or restrict cancer promoting foods including:
- Research has shown that limiting red meat and avoiding processed meat reduces the risk of certain types of cancer. Red meat contains compounds that have been shown to damage the lining of the gut and possibly promote cancer. Cooking red meat at high temperatures can also produce other cancer causing compounds.
- While moderate alcohol consumption may help protect against coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, even small amounts increase your risk for certain cancers. Body tissues directly exposed to alcohol (like mouth, esophagus, and stomach) may suffer cell damage that can promote cancer. While an association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer keeps turning up in studies, the precise reason for the link is not yet clear and more research is needed.
In our next article we will discuss how fiber in the diet reduces cancer risk. You can also check out our in-depth articles on preventing and healing chronic diseases utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.
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Wishing you good health!
Mike Woodley, R.Ph, FAARM, FMNM
Dietary Fiber Intake in Young Adults and Breast Cancer Risk
Maryam S. Farvid, A. Heather Eliassen, Eunyoung Cho, Xiaomei Liao, Wendy Y. Chen, Walter C. Willett
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 693920, 10 pages
Evolving Concepts: How Diet and the Intestinal Microbiome Act as Modulators of Breast Malignancy
Iuliana Shapira,1 Keith Sultan,2 Annette Lee,3 and Emanuela Taioli4
European Journal of Nutrition
February 2013, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 217–223
Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer by menopausal and estrogen receptor status
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Feb;22(2):286-94. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-1060. Epub 2012 Nov 20.
Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population.
Tantamango-Bartley Y1, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Fan J, Fraser G.