A recently published study reveals that women can reduce their risk of breast cancer – either new cancer, or a recurrence – by eating fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids. What’s more, the study indicates that the protective effects of a high-carotenoid diet are more pronounced in women with estrogen-negative cancer – which often appears as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the most difficult types to treat.
“Eat a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables…”
Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard that mantra before, right? Endlessly, in fact. EVERYONE must know by now that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a boon to your health in every way.
If you’re a breast cancer survivor, you’ve probably heard the advice as part of a larger recurrence-prevention strategy. Diet. Exercise. Limit your drinking, and quite smoking.
Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? And if you’re a foodie or couch potato, it also sounds daunting. Give up your favorite foods? Put on a sweat suit and go jogging? Probably not going to happen.
But a new study, published December 6 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, may give all of us new impetus for making at least one lifestyle change: adding certain fruits and vegetables to our diet.
Notice I said ADDING, not subtracting. In my experience, it’s easier emotionally to add something to your diet, rather than eliminate something. And the nice thing is, if you succeed in adding enough of what you SHOULD eat to your diet, you find that you’re not as hungry for the junk food or rich desserts you used to fill up on.
So, why is it suddenly news that eating fruits and veggies can reduce your breast cancer risk? Because this new study is what’s called a “pooled” study, where results of a number of other studies on the same topic, carried out over years, are brought together, analyzed, and summarized.
Pooled studies can reveal trends and truths that the smaller studies from which they draw just don’t show. And that’s exactly what happened with this new study, carried out by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Using data from 80% of the research done worldwide on a high-carotenoid diet’s effect on breast cancer risk, the BW/Harvard authors write there’s a “statistically significant inverse association between breast cancer risk and circulating levels of total and individual carotenoids.” (Paddock, 2012).
“Statistically significant” is the key phrase here. Those earlier studies showed mixed results; or indicated the link between carotenoids in the blood and breast cancer risk wasn’t strong enough to rule out simple random occurrence.
But putting all of the earlier studies together showed a clear link – and gave those of us mindful of reducing cancer risk something we can actually do: eat more high-carotenoid fruits and vegetables.