Pink October: reduce the risk of breast cancer by 40% thanks to the Mediterranean diet

The adoption of the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by 40%.

From a scientific point of view, the so-called “Mediterranean diet” refers to the way of eating of the inhabitants of southern Italy and Greece. It is basically a fairly frugal diet, mainly vegetarian, which is characterized by:

1 Abundant consumption of plant products, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts
2 A relatively high intake of monounsaturated (olive oil) and polyunsaturated (omega-6 and omega-3) fats, but low in saturated fats
3 Regular consumption of fish and poultry

Another positive point of the Mediterranean diet is that it is devoid of processed industrial foods. They are known to contain significant amounts of added sugars, saturated or trans fats and salt. In short, it’s a way of eating that’s virtually the opposite of the European diet, where most calories come from processed foods, meats, and added sugars.

Mediterranean diet: 40% less risk of breast cancer

Many studies have clearly shown that adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a noticeable decrease in several chronic diseases. Including cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. One of the best examples of this protective effect is the randomized study PREDIMED (Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea) which demonstrated that adherence to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil extra virgin or walnut reduced the risk of developing these diseases by about 30% as well as certain vascular complications such as arteritis of the lower limbs.

Remember that randomized studies are those that are generally associated with the development of drugs. They are very reliable, but generally represent far too high costs for prevention studies. This makes the study cited here even more valuable, because it validates other population studies that were not randomized.

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More recently, it was observed that women aged 60 to 80 who participated in the study were much less affected by breast cancer. With a reduction in risk of 40% in the group supplemented with nuts and 70% in the group supplemented with olive oil. The drastic reduction in the risk of breast cancer observed following adherence to the Mediterranean diet therefore strongly indicates that this diet can play a capital role in the prevention of this cancer.

Reduction in non-hormone-dependent breast cancer: the most aggressive

This preventive effect of the Mediterranean diet is well illustrated by the results of another important study. It was carried out among 62,573 Dutch women aged 55 to 69. The scientists examined the incidence of breast cancer in this cohort for a period of 20 years. They thus observed that the women who adhered the most to the Mediterranean diet had a risk of being affected by breast cancer (non-hormone-dependent cancer, without expression of the estrogen receptor) 40% lower than those who did not adopt not these eating habits.

These observations are very interesting. Because these cancers often have a poor prognosis due to their very rapid growth and aggressive clinical course. The identification of a preventive effect of the Mediterranean diet against this type of highly invasive breast cancer could therefore prove to be of great importance in reducing the burden imposed by this disease.


Martínez-González MA et al. Benefits of the Mediterranean diet: insights from the PREDIMED study. Prog. Cardiovascular Say. 58: 50-60.

Toledo E et al. Mediterranean diet and invasive breast cancer risk among women at high cardiovascular risk in the PREDIMED trial: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 175:1752-60.

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Van den Brandt PA and M Schulpen. Mediterranean diet adherence and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer: results of a cohort study and meta-analysis. Int. J.Cancer.

* At press health we strive to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice. []

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