Nutrition and Breast Cancer

According to World Health Organization, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally. As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world's most prevalent cancer. Although cancer does have a significant genetic component, lifestyle factors such as good nutrition, physical activity and healthy body weight also play a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer and its reoccurrence.

Fruits and Vegetables 

Consumption of fruits and vegetables in the Mediterranean diet have been suggested to prevent carcinogenesis. Fruits and vegetables are rich in polyphenols which has the ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Besides polyphenols, fruits and vegetables also a great source of carotenoids which linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. Cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals indole-3-carbinol and glucosinolates that have anti-cancer properties and anti-proliferative effect on breast cancer cells. They can be found on cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussels sprout. The more colorful and variety of fruits and vegetables you consume, the more phytochemicals you get from your diet.

Dairy Products

Consumption of fermented dairy, yogurt and low-fat dairy products is inversely associated with breast cancer development. Calcium and vitamin D appear to have anti-carcinogenic effects. On the other hand, non-dairy option such as soy products is associated with reduced risk of breast cancer. Soy contains antioxidants isoflavone such as genistein and daidzein which exert potential cancer protective effect.

Good Fats

Studies show omega 3 fatty acids which include Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Alpha Linoleic acid (ALA) shows protective effect on breast cancer. Studies show omega 3 enhances immune system, inhibit breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis. Fish and plant-based food contain different kind of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish contain DHA and EPA while plant-based food like flaxseed, walnut, and chia seed contain ALA. However, ALA need to be converted into DHA and EPA in our body. It is advisable to consume at least two servings of fish and plant-based sources to obtain adequate amount of DHA and EPA.

Unrefined Carbohydrate

Refined carbohydrate for example white bread, white rice, pizza, breakfast cereal and pasta are high in glycemic index. High glycemic index food spike our insulin levels and increase inflammation in our body. High glycemic index and high glycemic load have been associated with increased risk for breast cancer due to their effects on insulin and insulin growth factor. On the other hand, unrefined carbohydrate is a healthy option. Unrefined carbohydrate which you can include in your diet are brown rice, multigrain, quinoa, millet, rolled oat, non-starch vegetables and legumes.

Saturated Fats/Trans-fat

Women with high saturated fat and trans-fat intake are associated with increased risk for breast cancer. Saturated fat usually found naturally in meat and dairy products while trans-fat is man-made where you can found in fast food, cakes, muffins, margarine and processed food. Researchers said it is possible dietary fat increases the level of sex hormones in the body. This is why high fat diet are linked to greater risk of tumors whose growth is related to estrogen and progesterone, known as hormone receptor positive cancer. High fat dairy intake, a significant source of saturated fats, was positively associated with breast cancer recurrence, breast cancer mortality and overall mortality. A 40% increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who had higher tissue levels of trans-fatty acids. 

Red meat/Processed meat

High intake of red meat and processed meat has been linked to increased breast cancer risk due to their heme iron content and administration of estrogen to cattle. Cooking methods of red meat represents a possible cause of increased breast cancer too. During high temperature cooking, pro-carcinogenic compounds are formed such as heterocyclic amines and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons.  Daily intake of smoked meats more than doubled the risk for breast cancer in both pre- and postmenopausal women. We should limit red meat consumption by consuming not more than three servings weekly.