October Breast Health Awareness


Breast health is in jeopardy today, and even more so in the developed world. The number of cancer cases increased twice as much in Northern America compared to Africa in 2012, directing us to look at our lifestyle.  According to the World Cancer Research Fund International you could decrease your risk of breast cancer convincingly with lactation and the avoidance of weight gain.  They also note that physical activity and avoiding to gain abdominal fat could probably decrease the number of cancer cases.  They supported their lame findings with 3 inconclusive scientific articles.  The Canadian Breast Cancer Society had a little more to offer, but did say the studies to support healthy lifestyle were inconclusive.  One of their three citations for their information was from the source mentioned above.  I went back to that website and found that they claimed to be the ‘Expert Recommendations’ which would be updated on a regular basis.  With world authorities giving these kinds of results and suggestions, it is no wonder that breast cancer is on the rise and people feel hopeless in their fight against this horrible disease.


Fortunately, there is a growing number of articles from leading scientific journals supporting a much more optimistic attitude and I am happy to discuss these liberating and uplifting findings: 

1.     The positive effects of a diet mainly consisting of fruit and vegetables were found many times in studies right around the globe


A few of these foods emerged as stars and should be known to every breast cancer patient as well as those who want to reduce the risk of getting the disease:

a.    Flaxseed has shown huge potential to help with prevention of repeated breast cancer as well as assisting with traditional cancer treatments to be more effective [2, 19].

b.    Curcumin is the most researched food and has been proven to be beneficial for health in general and very specifically for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer [20, 21]

c.    Folate found in dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach and dried chickpeas, beans and lentils help improve breast health.

d.    Omega 3 fatty acids are long known for it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties [22, 23].  It also has a lot of other health benefits.

e.     Carotenoids found in carrots, dark leafy greens and sweet potato, only to name a few sources, were negatively associated with breast cancer risk [12, 15].

f.       The consumption of mushrooms is known to be beneficial to health in many ways.  There are quite a few studies which have shown that this wonder food suppresses the growth of tumor cells [24, 25].

g.      While soy is surrounded by some controversy with hormone sensitive cancers, some studies do suggest to consume this to improve your chances preventing and surviving breast cancer [8, 9, 14, 17].

h.     Food containing lignans (seeds, nuts, whole grains and vegetables) is also known in the scientific literature to improve not only breast health [2, 4] but also heart health as well as the immune system.

2.     Other lifestyle factors promoted in the scientific literature were positive emotions such as laughter [26], healthy sun exposure [18] and yoga [27, 28]

3.     The presence of aluminum in breast tissue was positively associated with the development of cancer [27, 28].  Aluminum is present in foods cooked in foil and foods and beverages from cans.  It is also found in some drugs such as antacids and vaccines. 

4.     Any food or drink from plastic containers is linked to a higher incidence of genetic related cancers [29]

5.     Organic food in general, with much less antibiotics, hormones and pesticides will also contribute to breast cancer health while the opposite is true for produce treated with these substances [30].

6.     Exercise has huge potential to help prevent and cure [31, 32] breast cancer.  Onestudy [33] even describes how it works to alter the cancer genes.


In conclusion, I want to repeat that this is by far not a comprehensive literature study on nutrition and breast cancer.  It is an attempt to show the public a glimpse of the scientific research done already to support the idea of using food as medicine - as in the times when breast cancer was much less of a threat as it is today.   We have the advantage of having scientific research to help us to decide how to eat to promote health in general and breast health in particular. 

My belief is that you must eat well and choose from a wide variety of foods.   Eat mainly plant based foods of all colors of the rainbow and include as much healthy fats as you could.  Food has a way to work even better with other good food so that the combined effect is much greater than the effect of the individual food items.




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[2] L.U. Thompson, J.M. Chen, T. Li, K. Strasser-Weippl, P.E. Goss, Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer, Clin Cancer Res 11 (2005) 3828-3835.

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[11] M.A. Martinez-Gonzalez, N. Martin-Calvo, Mediterranean diet and life expectancy; beyond olive oil, fruits, and vegetables, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 19 (2016) 401-407.

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[16] C.A. Thomson, C.L. Rock, P.A. Thompson, B.J. Caan, E. Cussler, S.W. Flatt, J.P. Pierce, Vegetable intake is associated with reduced breast cancer recurrence in tamoxifen users: a secondary analysis from the Women's Healthy Eating and Living Study, Breast Cancer Res Treat. (2010).

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[20] N. Kang, M.M. Wang, Y.H. Wang, Z.N. Zhang, H.R. Cao, Y.H. Lv, Y. Yang, P.H. Fan, F. Qiu, X.M. Gao, Tetrahydrocurcumin induces G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis involving p38 MAPK activation in human breast cancer cells, Food Chem Toxicol 67 (2014) 193-200.

[21] P.B. Patel, V.R. Thakkar, J.S. Patel, Cellular Effect of Curcumin and Citral Combination on Breast Cancer Cells: Induction of Apoptosis and Cell Cycle Arrest, J Breast Cancer 18 (2015) 225-234.

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[24] J.M. Wan, W.H. Sit, J.C. Louie, Polysaccharopeptide enhances the anticancer activity of doxorubicin and etoposide on human breast cancer cells ZR-75-30, Int J Oncol 32 (2008) 689-699.

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