Angelina Jolie revealing her double mastectomy has put breast cancer front and center in the news. Having the BRCA1 gene gave her an 87% chance that she would contract breast cancer at some point in her life. Given this, she made the personal decision to take this course of action.
Whether you have this gene or not, there are some lifestyle habits you can adopt that may reduce your risk. While studies are preliminary and not definitive for some of the specific food items below, adopting any of following can increase your overall health. So there is nothing to lose and much to gain.
- Don’t drink alcohol. Any amount can raise the risk of breast cancer.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes daily, and aim for 60 minutes a day ultimately.
- Maintain a healthy weight, due to the link between body fat and cancer.
- Maintain reduced insulin levels by avoiding processed carbohydrates.
- Breastfeed your baby.
Foods that may fight breast cancer:
- Berries (blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, black raspberries, strawberries) – suggest eating a variety of berries to get mix of all phytonutrients
- Brazil nuts (no more than a few daily or can get selenium toxicity), walnuts (the only nut that provides significant amounts of omega-3 fats)
- Carotenoids (red, orange, yellow and some dark green produce):
- Fruits: Apricots, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, nectarines, papayas, peaches, watermelon
- Vegetables: Bok choy, broccoli, carrots, corn, greens (collards, kale, lettuce, spinach), pumpkin, red peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and tomato products, winter squash
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, turnip/collard/mustard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, rutabaga, arugula, horse radish, wasabi, watercress). Eat raw or lightly cooked, as heat degrades the active nutrient sulphoraphane. Many of the studies indicate that 5 servings (1/2 cup) a week is a sufficient amount to gain its health benefits.
- Flaxseed (1 to 4 tablespoons per day was the amount used in the breast cancer studies)
- Mushrooms (post-menopausal) – added benefit: excellent source of potassium
- Green tea (adding citrus juice – orange, lemon, grapefruit or lime – increases catechins, its main health-providing substances)
You may not be able to fit all these foods in your diet every day, but try to consume them often as part of a balanced diet that includes plenty of plant-based foods. Most studies have found that foods high in nutrients provide benefit, but not supplements. Foods have many nutrients, including thousands of non-traditional ones called phytochemicals, that may work together to decrease the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
If you are an older adult and/or under the care of a doctor, particularly if taking prescription medicines, check with your doctor before making drastic changes in your eating habits, and to determine what level of physical activity is safe for you.
MedlinePlus, online article, March 29, 2012
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition research article, 2012
WebMD online article, April 3, 2012
American Institute for Cancer Research, online article, April 24, 2013