Updated: August 13, 2018
Breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors such as age, family history, genetics, and gender, that cannot be controlled. However, there are factors that individuals can control, which include smoking, not exercising, being overweight, and their diet. As diet could be responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all cancers, following a balanced diet rich in nutrients can avoid the risk of developing many cancer including breast cancer.
Breast cancer can start in different places, grow in different ways, and require different kinds of treatment. Certain cancers respond better to specific treatments, where as certain cancers respond well to specific foods.
A variety of fruits and vegetables is important for a healthful diet and may also help to prevent breast cancer as well.
The following foods are considered part of a healthful diet in general, and they may help to prevent the development or progression of breast cancer:
Generally 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended per day. As fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, they are linked to many medical benefits. The following fruits and vegetables are thought to be good for preventing breast cancer:
Beta-carotene, found in vegetables including carrots, can lower the risk of breast cancer. This may be because it interferes with the growth process of cancer cells.
Because fiber supports the digestive system and regular elimination of waste, it helps the body to get rid of toxins. There by limits the damage they can do and help protect against the disease. Whole grains and legumes also contain antioxidants, which can help to prevent many diseases. Eating more fiber-rich legumes, such as lentils, has also been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Fiber contributes to the prevention of breast cancer by helping the body eliminate estrogen. Many breast cancer treatments are designed to keep estrogen from interacting with breast cancer cells. So eating a diet high in fiber can support this process and accelerate the elimination of estrogen. Generally 30 to 45 grams of fiber per day is recommended for an individual.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are called the good fats which are found in olive oil, avocados, seeds, and nuts. In addition omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as salmon and herring, can reduce the risk of breast cancer. A diet in which around 20 to 30 percent of daily calories are from fat, with no more than 8 percent of total calories from saturated fat is considered as beneficial for reducing the risk of developing breast cancer.
The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish might be due to its ability to reduce inflammation, which is a possible contributing factor for breast cancer.
Soy is consideded as an extremely healthful food source which is rich in protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals and low in carbohydrates. In addition to reducing the risk of breast cancer, soy can also reduce low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, and hence help lower the risk of heart disease. Soy is found in foods such as:
Cutting down alcohol, added sugar, fat, and red meat are advisable for the prevention of breast cancer.
There is a link between regular alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. Alcohol may increase estrogen levels and cause damage to DNA cells. Women who drink three alcoholic beverages per week increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 15 percent. The risk goes up by around 10 percent with each additional drink per day.
A diet rich in sugar can increase the risk of breast cancer. In addition, these tumors are more likely to spread, or metastasize.
Trans fats are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and should be avoided. Trans fats are most commonly found in processed food such as fried foods, some crackers, donuts, and packaged cookies or pastries. However, fat from fruits and vegetables is associated with a decrease in risk.
There is a link between red meat and a greater likelihood of breast cancer. In addition, processed meats and cold cuts tend to be high in fat, salt, and preservatives and hence advised to be avoided for breast cancer prevention.
The following may also help the body to protect itself against breast cancer: