Reduce your risk of Breast Cancer

A vegetarian diet can help reduce your risk of breast cancer and that’s very important. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. Currently, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and American Cancer Society (ACS) cancer prevention guidelines recommend maintaining a healthy weight, undertaking at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, limiting alcohol consumption, and eating a plant-based diet.

Breast cancer is a very complicated disease but recent expert reports estimate that successful lifestyle changes could prevent 25% to 30% of cases of breast cancer. In a study of Taiwanese vegetarian women, long term vegetarians had a 58% reduced risk of breast cancer, compared to women following a meat-centered diet. Looking at specific foods, frequent consumption of meat and animal fat increased the risk of breast cancer 2.2 times, and processed meat increased the risk 49%, while consuming soy decreased the risk.

Since we mentioned it, let’s talk about soy for a moment. First let’s start with some terminology. Phyto is a scientific way of saying plant or plants. Plants produce plant estrogen or “phyto-estrogen”. Plant estrogen is not the same as human estrogen, but because they sound similar some people have been saying that it can cause or worsen breast cancer. In fact, the opposite is true!

Several reports demonstrate that high soy consumption during childhood may reduce one’s risk of developing breast cancer later in life, and that the risk may be further reduced by consuming soy as an adult. What about women who already have breast cancer? Among women with breast cancer, generous soy food consumption was significantly associated with decreased 34% risk of death and a 33% reduced risk of recurrence.

The positions of the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research are that soyfoods can be safely consumed by women with breast cancer.

“Patients with breast cancer can be assured that enjoying a soy latte or indulging in Pad Thai with tofu causes no harm and, when consumed in plentiful amounts, may reduce risk of disease recurrence”

Journal of the American Medical Association

Those following a plant-based diet have the advantage of consuming large quantities of substances that help block the development of cancerous cells. These substances are called phytochemicals.  Phytochemicals, often referred to as phytonutrients, are natural bioactive components rich in foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grain products, nuts and seeds, and legumes. Dietary fiber found in plant foods can also play a beneficial role.

Now that we’ve looked at some protective factors in plant foods, let’s take a look at the increased risk of breast cancer from eating meat. Research has shown that some cancer-causing chemicals are stored and highly concentrated in meat. Others are formed when the meat is cooked. Following a plant-based diet greatly reduces exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals.

As we said, breast cancer is a very complicated disease and there’s more involved than just diet. It’s vital to follow your doctor’s advice. Don’t make any changes to your treatment without discussing it with your doctor first. Your doctor may find this newly published professional level information helpful, on how a plant-based or vegan diet can help prevent and reduce the recurrence of breast cancer.