If you are living with breast cancer risk, newly diagnosed breast cancer, or metastatic breast cancer, you may be wondering what you can do, beyond treatment and outside of your doctor’s office, to try to keep the disease under control while continuing to live your life. A potential piece of the puzzle, if you are ready to change your lifestyle: food.
It is difficult to draw concrete conclusions about diet and disease, because it is difficult to carry out irrefutable studies proving the correlation between a food and a risk. Many studies, for example, are based on people’s recollection of what they ate (if you can’t remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday, you see the problem). That said, evidence tends, over time, to accumulate and lead to consensus.
When it comes to breast cancer, the strongest scientific evidence on the relationship between cancer and diet so far supports a plant-based, anti-inflammatory, fish-focused, red meat-avoiding diet. .
Why is it essential to control inflammation?
Inflammation is part of the body’s normal reaction to damage. However, as part of this response, there is a release of substances in the body that promote cell division, which is not something optimal in cancer patients. As for red meat, it contains hormones (which can fuel breast cancer growth), endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and contains heme (iron), an oxidant that can damage genes. If you put the meat on the grill, you add heterocyclic amines, compounds linked to cancer risk in laboratory studies, to the mixture.
How much difference can a change in diet make?
You will not eliminate your risk by adopting a predominantly vegetable and anti-inflammatory diet. But you can try to make the grass in your garden as inhospitable to weeds as possible.
Here are the six main protective foods
This vegetable family gets its name from the cross-shaped leaves and stems (crucifer comes from the word crucifix) and includes Brussels sprouts, bok choy, arugula, collard greens, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. This family of vegetables is rich in calcium and two types of compounds in particular, indoles and isothiocyanate, which have been widely studied for their anti-cancer properties. They contain compounds called indoles-3-carbinols, which aid in the detoxification of excess estrogen. Estrogen, a hormone, fuels the growth of breast cancer.
There is no shortage of evidence for the usefulness of eggs as a preventative ingredient. Two per week are worth considering because, in addition to being a source of non-meat protein, they are rich in choline, lutein and zeaxanthin, all micronutrients believed to have disease-fighting properties.
Epidemiological research has long shown that breast cancer is less common in countries with high fish consumption (as opposed to the meat-rich Western diet). This could be because fish, in addition to being a good source of protein without red meat, has anti-inflammatory properties in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Recent research conducted on mice bred for an aggressive form of breast cancer showed that exposure to PUFAs reduced the animals’ risk of developing the disease over their lifetime. Choose fatty cold water fish such as tuna (light “skipjack” tuna, not albacore, because the larger the fish, the more likely it is to contain mercury), sockeye salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.
Green tea has been identified as a potential super ingredient because it is heavily consumed in Asian cultures, where the risk of breast cancer is lower. Research continues. Green tea has significant antioxidant effects. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage from free radicals that are generated as part of normal metabolism and can cause genetic damage in cells leading to cancer growth. The polyphenolic compounds in the leaves act as antioxidants and detoxify cell-damaging free radicals. Some research suggests that the polyphenols in green tea may also reduce the activity level of estrogen, which fuels the growth of breast cancer. A major study of post-menopausal Asian women who drank green tea found a 25% reduction in breast cancer recurrences.
There was once a lot of concern about the consumption of soy by women with breast cancer because the chemical structure of soy is similar to that of estrogen. But this theory has been largely disproved by numerous long-term studies. Soy is a nutrient-rich plant protein that contains all nine essential amino acids, which is relatively rare in the plant world. It is an ideal protein source. When wondering which soy product to eat, look for soy in whole-food form, such as tempeh, edamame, miso, and tofu.
As little as a quarter or a third of a cup of milk has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer by 30%, according to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2020. One reason could be be the hormone content of cow’s milk, since cows are lactating (and many are pregnant). But the risk seems to improve if the milk is fermented, as is the case in yogurt, which is also a good source of calcium and protein. Yogurt also contains beneficial bacteria, like probiotics, which can reduce inflammation and the risk of breast cancer.
Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention
Marine fish oil is more potent than plant-based n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the prevention of mammary tumors
Cancer Prevention with Green Tea and Its Principal Constituent, EGCG: from Early Investigations to Current Focus on Human Cancer Stem Cells
Dairy, soy, and risk of breast cancer: those confounded milks
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