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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Randy

In the U.S., breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. A plant-based diet may be beneficial in preventing, slowing, and even treating breast cancer, despite flawed or deceptive studies to the contrary.

Diets containing less meat may reduce the risk of breast cancer by lowering one’s exposure to anabolic steroids, heterocyclic amines, cadmium, saturated fat, trans fat, Neu5Gc, methionine, cholesterol, IGF-1, PhlP, and industrial pollutants. Meat may also lead to inflammation and over-activation of the enzyme TOR, which may be linked with increased breast cancer.

Dairy, even organic cow’s milk, contains hormones that may increase breast cancer risk directly or indirectly by contributing to premature puberty. This may be due to the endocrine disrupting chemicals linked with dairy proteins. Melatonin suppression by meat and dairy may also play a role. Eating a single egg a day has been associated with nearly three times the risk of breast cancer.

Supplements such as iron supplements, folic acid supplements, and multivitamins may also increase one’s risk. Alcohol intake may even double the risk of breast cancer, even just light drinking. Obesity has also been linked with high rates of breast cancer, possibly due to high insulin levels. Statin drugs, CT scans, kimchi, and acrylamide from fried carbs may also be linked to breast cancer risk.

Vegetables appear to be protective against breast cancer, possibly due to their high fiber content as women with more freqent bowel movements have a lower risk for breast cancer. The most protective appear to be cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, possibly due to the sulforphane content, kale, collard greens, cabbage, and allium family vegetables (such as garlic, onions and leeks). Also protective are amla (against both cancer cell growth and invasion), mushrooms, turmeric, nuts, coffee, rye bread, Nori seaweed, black beans and other beans, phytates in legumes, whole grains, and seeds, and avocados (though there is natural toxin in avocados that may be a problem).  Flaxseed is another food that may prevent and treat breast cancer.

Among fruits, organic strawberries and cranberries appear to block cancer cell growth and, like other berries, may block breast-cell DNA damage. Apples, in particular the peels, also appear to reduce breast cancer risk.

Soy foods have the distinction of both helping prevent breast cancer (in part by supporting normal pubertal development) and improving survival, even for women on Tamoxifen. But consuming over 3-5 servings of soy foods per day may lead to high levels of cancer-promoting IGF-1. Also, non-GMO soy may be safer in terms of toxin exposure.

Studies suggest that getting enough vitamin D and an hour of exercise each day helps decrease risk of breast cancer, as does avoiding certain ayurvedic medicines. Contrary to what some once believed, studies have not found a link between grapefruit intake and breast cancer risk.

Image Credit: DragonImages / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.

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