When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, it devastated our entire family. At the time she was diagnosed, back in 2011, we knew nothing of the disease — or why she even had it, especially considering she was the first in our family to be diagnosed. For someone who had seemed healthy for all these years, was suddenly plagued with weekly chemo-treatments, a bald head, and fear of what her Stave IV breast cancer diagnosis meant.
Given the prevalence of breast cancer and the fact that it’s touched so many lives, one big question that I, among countless others have is how we can go about preventing this devastating type of cancer. While we learn that routine checks, such as mammograms and self-examinations are crucial for early detection, the concept of a simple diet and exercise leaves a lot to be desired. What kinds of foods may help with prevention? What foods should someone avoid? Prevention, as I’m beginning to understand, starts very simply at home.
My sister, since having a mother diagnosed with breast cancer, is at a higher risk for developing breast cancer during her lifetime. A common question that emerges from people — like my sister — who are at a higher risk of breast cancer, is whether or not there are particular foods that can increase or decrease the risk of disease.
If you ask anyone, they have probably had some type of personal connection to breast cancer. This is because one out of eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. While the risk of developing breast cancer is not as high, men are still at risk, affecting 1 out of 1,000 males in the United States. There are many different causes that can contribute to the development of breast cancer.
It is important to catch a diagnosis of breast cancer as soon as possible to give the affected person the best possible chance of developing a treatment plan and beating the disease. If a doctor fails to properly diagnosis this or misdiagnoses breast cancer as something else, the patient could miss out on valuable protections.
Some of the most common risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of breast cancer include obesity, age, certain medications, family history, genetics, hormone replacement therapy, birth control use, lack of exercise and diet.
While it is not possible to control many of the risk factors for the development of breast cancer, there are certain behaviors that can increase or decrease your risk. Some ways to minimize your breast cancer risk include making informed decisions before taking medications or going through hormone replacement therapy, maintaining a healthy weight, and using a plant-based diet.
Could Your Risk Be Higher Because You Eat These Foods?
Certain foods have been identified as being tied to an increased risk of breast cancer. One 2007 Italian study, for example, showed a high connection between sugar and the development of breast cancer. Grilled meats may increase the development of HCAs, which are cancer-causing compounds. High-fat animal products have also been tied to higher risk of breast cancer in addition to dairy and artificial sweeteners.
In recent years, many studies have explored the other negative impacts of consuming too much of these foods, such as a higher propensity for obesity. Those who are mindful of their diet and overall health may be looking to eliminate as many of these as possible from their daily lives already.
Decreasing Breast Cancer Risk with the Right Diet
The good news is, however, that there are some foods that could decrease your risk of breast cancer. Adding more of these types of food to your diet is not only easy but can help give you greater peace of mind. Broccoli contains high levels of indole-3 carbonyl, which has strong anti-cancerous properties. Red cabbage is another vegetable to consider adding into your regular diet. This also contains IC-3 in addition to vitamin A and this can reduce cancer risks. Chia seeds are another thing to incorporate into your diet because the Omega 3 fatty acid intake could decrease breast cancer risks due to its high antioxidants. Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan, which decreases breast cancer risk and boosts your overall immune health. The very popular spice, turmeric, has been incorporated into recent studies as a potential breast cancer reduction risk. Anti-cancer effects in early studies have been identified with high use of turmeric, which also has benefits for your skin. One recent study says that women who ate lots of veggies, legumes, and fruit while minimizing processed carbohydrates, salt and red meat may decrease their chances of getting estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer.
This makes up a quarter of breast cancer cases worldwide and this study was recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The chance of this type of cancer was 20% lower when women followed this diet.
The most beneficial foods to consider include walnuts and red, yellow and orange veggies and fruits. Harvard Medical School researchers identified that women who have higher levels of carotenoids or those nutrients found in veggies and fruits, typically have a lower breast cancer risk. This is particularly true for cancers that have a poor prognosis and are more difficult to diagnose.
The most popular choices for these fruits and veggies include sweet potatoes, kale, red peppers, spinach, carrots, and winter squash. In addition to following a healthy plant-based diet, reducing your intake of alcohol is another way to curb your breast cancer risk. While many items are safe in moderation, overexposure to particular compounds and chemicals can generate possible cancer risk and other health-related problems. For many people who overdo it, the signs may show up too late in the form of a cancer diagnosis. When certain types of cancer are flagged early, however aggressive, treatment options can help the affected person obtain better results and fight back to become cancer-free. It’s important to follow through on the doctor’s advice in these situations to have the best chance of beating the illness.
Proper awareness of increased risk factors, such as other women in the family who were diagnosed with breast cancer, might lead a woman to adopt new habits and to remain especially vigilant about screening.
In addition to advance screening and watching out for the signs of cancer, most people know that good health and exercise can contribute not only to lower cancer risk but a better lifestyle. While not every type of cancer can be avoided completely, with the right lifestyle, you can increase your chances significantly by committing to health and wellness as much as possible.
The diagnosis of breast cancer can have devastating impacts on a family if it’s not caught early. In the best case scenarios, proper screening and reporting potential problems to doctors will flag breast cancer issues early on and allow for the most treatment options.