A NEW REVIEW of this question in the European Journal of Cancer, concludes that in 17 studies, women who consumed the most vegetables faced a 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate the least.
Another study, reported in Nutrition and Cancer, found that women who ate the most vegetables had a 60 percent lower risk than those who ate the least. The beta-carotene and vitamin C in vegetables seem to be part of this protection, but research shows vegetables contain thousands of natural phytochemicals that work in many different ways to combat cancer. One such group, called indoles, is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, and seem to boost enzymes that make estrogen less effective at promoting breast cancer.
Research also continues to support the benefits of watching your weight. A report on the Nurses’ Health Study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that weight gained during adulthood increases breast cancer risk. Excess body fat gained during this period doesn’t show its effect until after menopause. Women who gained more than 45 pounds during adulthood increased their risk of post-menopausal breast cancer by 40 percent. Weight gained after menopause was only slightly related to post- menopausal breast cancer.
Regular physical activity is also recommended to lower risk. It is not clear whether exercise acts directly on hormones or other factors to lower risk, or if its main benefit comes from the well-documented role of exercise in weight control. AICR recommends working toward a total of an hour of moderate exercise daily, but any amount of exercise is better for health than remaining a couch potato.
Studies also continue to examine the potential benefit of limiting alcohol consumption. A new Canadian study, published in Cancer Causes & Control, suggests that alcohol is likely to be linked with increased breast cancer risk only at levels of more than four drinks a day. However, other studies suggest risk may begin at much lower levels of consumption. For overall health and lower breast cancer risk, women are advised to have no more than one standard alcoholic drink per day. A standard drink is equal to five ounce of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or one and one-half ounces of hard liquor.
The impact of dietary fat on breast cancer risk is unclear because different types of fat seem to vary in their effect. A report in the journal Carcinogenesis notes that excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils (like safflower and corn oils) may stimulate development of breast cancer, increasing chances of damage to DNA and changing cell growth and reproduction. On the other hand, the report notes that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and the monounsaturated fat in olive oil may help prevent cancer. Saturated fat (in meats and fatty dairy products), red meat itself, and high-temperature grilled meats are all being studied for potential risks, and should be eaten only in moderation.
A new study in The New England Journal of Medicine addresses the question of whether cancer is environmental or genetic. It reminds us that while inherited tendencies play a role in a woman’s risk of breast cancer, diet and lifestyle seem to have far greater influence for most. For now, a plant-based diet in moderate portions for weight control seems the best choice.
Thanks to Karen Collins, a registered dietitian with the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
Find many more articles and studies on Exercise in the Relevant Studies section (then Non Toxic...). Also see Quality of Life (this section).
Cancer J, 9/01
Aerobic Exercise in Cancer Survivors
J Clin Oncol, 2/02
Nutrition & Survival After Bca Diagnosis
Altered Nutritional/Inflammatory Status:Increased Toxicity Risk
MSNBC reports on
Am Inst for Cancer Research, 10/00
Euro J Cancer
Cancer Epid,Biomarkers & Prevention, 12/02
Br Cancer Res Treat, 1/03
Breast Cancer Res, 3/03
Int J Cancer, 4/03
Fruits/Vegetables Intake Different w/Er+ and Er- Bca
Flavinoid Intake, BCa risk:Greece
Malmo Diet/Cancer Cohort-Plant Foods, Fiber & Fat
Antiproliferative Properties Brassica oleracea Juice
The Oncologist, 8/03
Physical Activity Section
Weight Control Section
Ann Fonfa's Letter to Researcher Anne McTiernan
References for Behavioral Risk Factors/Modification Bca
Adlscnt Diet & Benign Breast Disease
Arch Intern Med, 11/06
Intl J for Vitamins & Nutrition Research,Posted November 2007
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