Food and Breast Cancer
October of each year brings extra awareness to breast cancer. I personally have an increased awareness to breast cancer because my beautiful mother is a breast cancer survivor! Thankfully, she tested negative for the genetic mutation, which would put our family more at risk for breast cancer. It’s estimated that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are related to genetic factors. That leaves approximately 90 to 95 percent of breast cancers related to something else. So what is it?
Of course there is always evolving research of what the cause of breast cancer or any cancer for that matter is. What we do know is there are things that we can choose from a lifestyle and diet perspective to reduce our risk of breast cancer, which is amazing.
One of the most important aspects of our health that affects breast cancer risk is our weight. It’s important to maintain a healthy body weight. The relationship between obesity and breast cancer risk is not fully understood, however we do know that fat tissue actually can produce its own estrogen. Crazy! So therefore, estrogen-sensitive breast cancer tissues are exposed to more estrogen than women of a healthy weight, which increases breast cancer risk.
Naturally, with weight as a risk factor, a healthy diet and exercise routine is very important. There are well known foods that are great for breast health. Dark, green, leafy vegetables like spinach for example. Spinach contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Most importantly leafy greens like spinach contain a compound called glucosinolate. Glucosinolates break down to isothiocyanates and indoles, which are associated with decreased inflammation, in turn lowering the risk of cancer. It has been found to inhibit the development of cancer specifically in the bladder, colon, liver, lung, breast, and stomach.
Berries are very high in antioxidants and specifically combat and reduce free radical damage. Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies are again very high in glucosinolates. Nuts and seeds are very important specifically for their omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti- inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer.
As you can see, a diet rich in plants is very important for cancer prevention. Not only do these foods provide essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants, but they are also lower in calories, which helps you to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also important to avoid alcohol, because women who drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day, are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
In general, the less processed foods that you consume including diary, grains, and mostly anything that comes in a box/bag/can with a long ingredients list is a “no-no”. As much as possible, chose organic foods. Conventional foods are likely contaminated with chemicals from pesticides and herbicides, which can negatively affect your health and have been associated with cancer.
What’s really cool is there are many supplements that specifically contain high levels of these specific nutrients that have been shown to be cancer fighting. Depending on your family history and your personal risk factors, our providers can come up with a personalized plan for supplementation to support your immune system and lower cancer risk. Let us help!
-Amanda Patchett, FNP-C