Do you know what the biggest risk factor for breast cancer is?
Being a woman.
And risk factor #2?
Since there’s nothing we can do about our gender and increasing age, is it any wonder many of us seek some kind of silver bullet that’ll guarantee we remain cancer-free?
If you’re looking for the ultimate breast cancer prevention agent, you’re wasting your time. There is nothing – no diet, no habit, no lifestyle change or exercise regimen or vaccine – that can absolutely, positively prevent breast cancer.
But don’t be discouraged. There are small improvements you can make in most of those areas – eating right, exercising, exchanging bad habits (e.g., smoking) for good – that can lower your risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.
When it comes to avoiding breast cancer, little things CAN mean a lot.
Including what you choose to eat.
The Mediterranean diet
Dr. Susan Love, long-time breast cancer researcher and founder of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, literally wrote the book on breast cancer. Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book has just come out in an updated 5th edition. Known for her common-sense approach to breast cancer and its treatment, Love has taken information from years of clinical trials and studies, and boiled it down to this:
A diet “low in fat, high in fruits and vegetables, low in processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and hormone-treated beef and chicken” – in other words, a basic healthy diet – is your best bet for trying to prevent cancers of all kinds.
Love goes on to say that the Mediterranean diet, in particular, may help prevent breast cancer. This diet features “an abundance of food from plants, moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt, weekly consumption of small to moderate amounts of fish and poultry, limited sweets and red meat, and low to moderate consumption of wine.”
Love notes that the data around breast cancer prevention and the Mediterranean diet is thus far only observational: while women following the diet are diagnosed with breast cancer less often than those not following it, there haven’t been long-term studies, with a control group, to prove the link conclusively.
Still, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” – if the connection seems to exist but hasn’t yet been proved, why not assume that someday proof will exist?
Following the Mediterranean diet would require tweaking what many of us eat on a daily basis. But, unlike some of the weight-loss diets that have surfaced in recent years, it doesn’t sound crazy; in fact, it sounds pretty tasty.
While the relationship between aspirin and breast cancer recurrence has been established, there’s no research around aspirin and breast cancer prevention. Still, if we can assume breast cancer grows the same way, whether it’s new or a recurrence, it would make sense to apply study results to all breast cancer.
The 30-year Nurses’ Health Study, conducted by doctors and researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard, shows that breast cancer survivors in the study taking 81mg (low-dose) aspirin 2 to 5 days a week had a 60 percent reduced risk of distant recurrence, and a 71 percent lower risk of death from breast cancer.
Scientists theorize that aspirin’s anti-inflammatory benefits somehow disable cancer cells. They’ve also observed that aspirin stops the growth of breast cancer tumor cells, at least in a scientific setting.
Before you add aspirin to your daily dose of drugs, though, check with your doctor or oncologist; it comes with potential side effects that might make it inappropriate for you.
Several years ago Dr. Dean Ornish, medical editor of the influential blog “The Huffington Post,” characterized angiogenesis research as one of the “top 10 medical events of the decade.” And focus on this particular aspect of cancer has continued to grow.
So, what’s angiogenesis? It’s the growth of new blood vessels from existing ones. In the case of cancer, it’s the ability of cancerous tumors to grow their own network of blood vessels, thus creating a life-giving blood supply for themselves.
Angiogenesis inhibitors – drugs that prevent tumors from supplying themselves with a network of blood vessels – are being studied for many cancers, and have been implemented for some. Avastin is a well-known example of an angiogenesis inhibitor; and, while its effectiveness for breast cancer is being debated (and it recently lost FDA approval for use in breast cancer treatment), Avastin has been approved for treatment of other cancers, including colon and small-cell lung cancer.
Still, manufactured drugs aren’t the only substances that inhibit angiogenesis; some foods exhibit the ability, as well. While these foods are far from being proven “anti-cancer” agents, it’s possible that future research may label them such. And again, in the meantime – if they’re easy to add to your diet, why not?
The not-for-profit Angiogenesis Foundation suggests the following foods may help prevent cancer:
•Beverages: green tea and red wine;
•Fruits: strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries; oranges, grapefruits, and lemons; red grapes, cherries, apples, pomegranate seeds, and pineapple;
•Vegetables: bok choy, kale, artichokes, soy beans, pumpkin, Maitake mushrooms, tomatoes, parsley, and garlic;
•Oils: olive oil and grape seed oil;
•Other: dark chocolate, tuna, licorice, turmeric, nutmeg, lavender, sea cucumber, cinnamon, and ginseng.
Remember, there are no proven ways to prevent breast cancer through diet.
But there’s a pretty fair chance you can lower your risk by eating certain foods, and avoiding others. So why not take that chance? Someday, that chance may become a certainty.
Published On: July 02, 2011