Modest lifestyle changes that include the avoidance of alcohol may cut the odds of breast cancer in half, but certain grapes appear to contain natural aromatase inhibitors that may undermine the ability of breast tumors to produce their own estrogen.
Images thanks to walknboston, Peggy Greb, André Karwath and Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture via Wikimedia Commons. Thanks to Maxim Fetissenko, PhD and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their help with keynote!
After diagnosis, women with breast cancer may cut their risk of dying nearly in half—estrogen-receptor positive; estrogen receptor negative—just instituting simple, modest lifestyle changes, 5 or more servings fruits and veggies a day and just like walking 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week. But what about preventing breast cancer in the first place?
If you actually follow the advice of the official dietary guidelines for cancer prevention does it actually reduce your risk of cancer? If you manage your weight, eat more plant foods, less animal foods, less alcohol and breastfeed if you're a woman, based on the largest prospective study on diet and cancer in history, you may significantly lower your risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, UADT cancer—you don't want to get cancer in your UADT, believe me—no, that means basically oral cancer, as well as lower risk for liver cancer, esophageal cancer, and all cancers combined.
Of all the recommendations, the "Eat mostly foods of plant origin" appeared the most powerful. For example a study in the UK found that in just one year in Britain there were14,902 excess cases of cancer caused by something they were exposed to 10 years earlier. What was that something that ended up causing thousands of cancers? Deficient intake of fruit and vegetables. If that was some instead chemical spill or something causing 14 thousand cancers, people would be up and arms to ban it, but instead when that killer carcinogen is not eating their fruit and veg, as the Brits would say, it hardly get's anyone's attention.
What if you throw in smoking too? Researchers created a healthy lifestyle index, defined by four things: #1 exercise, #2, a dietary shift away from the standard American diet high in meat, dairy, fat, and sugar towards a more prudent dietary pattern—for instance green and yellow vegetables, beans, and fruits. #3 avoidance of tobacco and #4 avoidance of alcohol. If young, women scoring higher on those four things may cut their odds of getting breast cancer in half, and older women may cut their odds of breast cancer 80%!
We've covered how even light drinking can increase breast cancer risk, but for women who refuse to eliminate alcohol, which is less carcinogenic, red wine or white? Well some studies, such as the Harvard Women's Health Study suggest less or even no risk from red wine and we may have just figured out why. Remember how mushrooms were the vegetable best able to suppress the activity of aromatase, the enzyme used by breast tumors to produce its own estrogen? Well if you run the same human placenta experiments with fruit, strawberries get the silver, but grapes get the gold.
But what kind of grapes? The whimpy green grapes used to make white wine didn't work, compared to those used for making red. Bottom line, "red wine may serve as a nutritional aromatase inhibitor, which may ameliorate the elevated breast cancer risk associated with alcohol intake." But why accept any elevated risk, by instead just eating grapes. And if you do, chose ones with seeds if you can, as they may work even better.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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My reference to the cancer risk associated with even light drinking (up to one drink per day) is explored in Breast Cancer and Alcohol: How Much is Safe?
Wasn't there a study that found that fruits and vegetables weren't protective against cancer, though? See my video on the EPIC Study.
For more on the aromatase story, see:
What if you already have breast cancer, though? Well, Cancer Prevention and Treatment May Be the Same Thing, but I do have been a few studies on breast cancer survival and diet:
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