Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. To demonstrate how dramatically lifestyle choices can impact breast cancer risk, researchers followed for about seven years a group of about 30,000 postmenopausal women without history of breast cancer and found that imply limiting alcohol, eating mostly plant foods, and maintaining a normal body weight was associated with a 62 percent lower breast cancer risk.
Remarkably, eating a plant-based diet along with walking every day may improve our cancer defenses within just two weeks. Researchers attributed this effect to a decrease in levels of a cancer-promoting growth hormone called IGF-1, likely due to the reduced intake of animal protein.
It isn’t only animal protein that may be harmful, but the carcinogens in cooked meat. The Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project reported that women who eat more grilled, barbecued, or smoked meats over their lifetimes may have as much as 47 percent higher odds of breast cancer, and the Iowa Women’s Health Study found that women who ate their bacon, beefsteak, and burgers “very well done” had nearly five times the odds of getting breast cancer compared with women who preferred these meats rare or medium. Scientists were able to link the consumption of fried meat with the amount of DNA damage found within women’s breast tissue, the type of damage that can potentially cause a normal cell to mutate into a cancer cell.
Cholesterol may also play a role in the development and progression of breast cancer, as cancer appears to feed on it. The cancer is thought to be using the cholesterol to make estrogen or to shore up tumor membranes to help the cancer migrate and invade more tissue. In other words, breast tumors may take advantage of high circulating cholesterol levels to fuel and accelerate their own growth.
Consuming less meat and more fruits, vegetables, and fiber, as well as flaxseeds, soy foods, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli sprouts may reduce breast cancer risk and improve survival chances.
Note: In 2018 I did a whole series on mammograms. Check it out here.
Image Credit: DragonImages / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Breast Cancer
All Videos for Breast Cancer
The Pros & Cons of Mammograms
Fact Boxes can quantify benefits and harms in a clear and accessible format.
Why Patients Aren’t Informed About Mammograms
If doctors don’t understand health statistics how can they possibly counsel patients properly?
Why Mammograms Don’t Appear to Save Lives
“Early” detection is actually really late. Without mammograms, breast cancer may not be caught for an average of 22.8 years, but with mammograms, breast cancer may only grow and spread for 21.4 years.
Breast Cancer & the 5-Year Survival Rate Myth
Watching this video, you’ll know more than an estimated 97% of doctors about a critical concept called lead-time bias.
Women Deserve to Know the Truth About Mammograms
What do 9 in 10 women say they were never told about mammograms, even though they thought they had the right to know?
Overtreatment of Stage 0 Breast Cancer DCIS
9 out of 10 women don’t realize that some breast cancers would never have caused any problems (or even become known in one’s lifetime). This is an issue ductal carcinoma in situ has brought to the fore.
Understanding the Mammogram Paradox
The mammogram paradox is that women who are harmed the most are the ones who claim the greatest benefit.
Can Mammogram Radiation Cause Breast Cancer?
What is the risk-benefit ratio of the cancers picked up by mammograms and the cancers caused by mammograms?
Do Mammograms Hurt?
Excessive breast compression during mammography may not improve image quality and cause unnecessary pain.
Consequences of False-Positive Mammogram Results
Odds are most women will get at least one false-positive mammogram, but thankfully most women who are called back for further testing of a suspicious mammogram finding do not end up having cancer after all.
Do Mammograms Save Lives?
For every life saved by mammography, as many as 2 to 10 women are overdiagnosed, meaning turned into breast cancer patients unnecessarily, along with all the attendant harms of chemo, radiation, or surgery without the benefits.
Should Women Get Mammograms Starting at Age 40?
Various health organizations offer clashing mammogram recommendations that range from annual mammograms starting at age 40 to eliminating routine mammograms altogether. Who should you trust?