"...look into all things with a searching eye” - Baha'u'llah (Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith)


Jan 2, 2013

Does diet play a part in preventing breast cancer?

The first inklings that food might play a role in breast cancer came from the observation that breast cancer is rare in countries where diets are mainly plant-based. In Japan, for example, where the traditional dietary staple is rice, breast cancer is rarer than in Western countries. The difference is not due to genetics – at least nor for the most part -- because as people migrate from Asia to the US, the breast cancer risk for their children and grandchildren matched that of other Americans.

Part of the difference relates to the fact that Japanese women are often thinner than Americans. Body fat produces estrogens -- female sex hormones that are linked to breast cancer. Many studies, including two very large ones, have shown that women with less body fat are less likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer, compared with heavier women.

However, avoiding being overweight is not the only issue in cancer prevention. Here are four more steps that may help reduce risk:

Limit alcohol
A woman who has even one drink per day-- if it's every day -- has about a 10 percent higher risk of breast cancer, compared with women who avoid alcohol. The reason may relate to alcohol's tendency to disrupt the action of folic acid, a B vitamin with anticancer properties. It pays to keep alcohol use modest and intermittent.

Avoid meat, especially red meat
Women who generally avoid red meat have a lower risk of breast cancer, compared with those who include it in their daily diet. It is not yet clear whether the problem with meat is the carcinogens that form as it is cooked or the effect of meat-eating on the hormones in a woman's body.

Avoid fatty foods
Studies have been mixed about whether the amount of fat in your diet affects your breast cancer risk. Some researchers have suggested that what matters is the type of fat you eat. Saturated fat, the kind found especially in meat, is linked to higher risk.

Bring on the fruits, vegetables, and legumes
Vegetables and beans are rich in folic acid. The fiber in fruits and vegetables is important too; it helps your body to eliminate excess hormones. Here's how: As your liver filters your blood, it removes excess estrogens, sending them into your intestinal tract. There, fiber carries these hormones out with the waste. If you do not have enough fiber in your diet, estrogens pass from your intestinal tract back into your bloodstream.

How much fiber is enough?
The National Academy of Sciences recommends that young women get at least 25 grams of fiber daily and that young men get at least 38 grams, with slightly lower recommendations for older adults. However, many authorities suggest slightly more, around 40 grams per day for all adults. To help you picture what that means, a 1/2-cup serving of beans has 7 grams of fiber, a slice of whole-wheat bread has 3 grams, and a typical piece of fruit has about 3 grams.

Specific foods that are known to protect against breast cancerGirls who consume about 3 ounces of tofu or 1 cup of soymilk daily during puberty have about 30 percent less risk of breast cancer as adults. Whether soy products are safe for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer is not clear, although most evidence so far is reassuring.

Macrobiotic diet
The macrobiotic diet is more than a diet plan -- it's a lifestyle. As a diet, macrobiotics consists of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while steering away from meat, dairy products, and oily foods. When practiced in a balanced way, it may provide many health benefits and proper nutrition. A macrobiotic diet can lower your risk for many diseases, but scientists cannot yet prove that it will prevent cancer. If you're looking for a diet to help you recover from cancer treatments, macrobiotics may be very helpful in restoring your health.

Cancer Fighting Foods/Spices
The National Cancer Institute estimates that roughly one-third of all cancer deaths may be diet related. What you eat can hurt you, but it can also help you. Many of the common foods found in grocery stores or organic markets contain cancer-fighting properties, from the antioxidants that neutralize the damage caused by free radicals to the powerful phytochemicals that scientists are just beginning to explore. There isn't a single element in a particular food that does all the work: The best thing to do is eat a variety of fresh, un-processed, whole foods. 

The following foods (not in any specific order) have the ability to help stave off cancer and some can even help inhibit cancer cell growth or reduce tumor size:

Pomegranates (punica granatum) are a very healthy fruit that appears to slow down the growth of estrogen-fueled breast cancers. This is highly recommended for preventing breast cancer. It contains polyphenol - an ellagic acid with anti-oxidant properties that prevent cancer growth. Make astringent, juicy, beautiful pomegranates part of your anticancer diet.

Recent research in the journal Nutrition and Cancer suggests walnuts may thwart the growth of breast cancer. They have plenty of omega-3-fatty acids, natural phytosterols and antioxidants. In a study out of Marshall University School of Medicine in West Virginia, researchers substituted the equivalent of two ounces of walnuts per day into the diet of one group of mice; the other group was fed a calorically equivalent, but walnut-free, diet. After 34 days, the growth rate of tumors in the walnut eaters was half that of the mice who ate no walnuts. Experts think walnuts’ anti-inflammatory properties—which could come from the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid, phytosterols or antioxidants—may give them their tumor-fighting potential. One caveat: the study dose of two ounces supplies 370 calories.

An examination of the diets of several thousand Chinese women suggested that those who ate at least 10 grams of fresh mushrooms (the weight of one small button mushroom) daily had a 64 percent reduced risk of cancer.

There are a number of mushrooms that appear to help the body fight cancer and build the immune system - Shiitake, maitake, reishi, Agaricus blazei Murill, and Coriolus Versicolor. These mushrooms contain polysaccharides, especially Lentinan, powerful compounds that help in building immunity. They are a source of Beta Glucan. They also have a protein called lectin, which attacks cancerous cells and prevents them from multiplying. They also contain Thioproline. These mushrooms can stimulate the production of interferon in the body.

Extracts from mushrooms have been successfully tested in recent years in Japan as an adjunct to chemotherapy.

You can get flax either as whole seed, ground or flaxseed oil. The body cannot break down the hard shell of whole flax seed. You need to grind it for the body to digest it and get the benefit from it. Flaxseed oil is not a whole food – it is missing many nutrients and contains none of the fiber. Freshly ground flaxseed is the best.

The omega-3s, lignans and fiber found in flaxseed are found to form a protective shield against cancer cells responsible for causing breast cancer. Add ground flaxseed to yogurt or a smoothie to create a richer and nutty flavour. You can add also add ground flaxseed salad.

Omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed also protect against colon cancer and heart disease.

A great source of omega-3s and vitamins B12 and D, salmon can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to regulate cell growth and prevent cancer. In fact, certain types of Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) have proven effective in cancer treatment.

Taking fish-oil supplements for at least 10 years can shrink your risk of ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer, according to a study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. It’s thought that the omega-3 fats in fish oil reduce inflammation, which may contribute to breast cancer. But you can skip the supplement aisle, say the study’s researchers, and eat about 6 to 8 ounces of oily fish (salmon, sardines, tuna) three times a week. Please note that not all fish are safe.  One needs to consider the amount of mercury and PCBs and other toxins – wild vs. farmed fish.  The following links should assist you in this regard:  http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/walletcard.PDF http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/fish/safefish.html

Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that lends its color to fruits and vegetables. It attacks roaming oxygen molecules, known as free radicals, that are suspected of triggering cancer. Lycopene has some heart health benefits, too. It appears that the hotter the weather, the more lycopene tomatoes produce. They also have vitamin C, an antioxidant which can prevent cellular damage that leads to cancer. Watermelons, carrots, and red peppers also contain these substances, but in lesser quantities. It is concentrated by cooking tomatoes.  Scientists in Israel have shown that lycopene can kill mouth cancer cells. An increased intake of lycopene has already been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, pancreas and colorectal cancer. Recent studies indicate that for proper absorption, the body also needs some oil along with lycopene.

Garlic has immune-enhancing allium compounds (dialyl sultides) that appear to increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly help break down cancer causing substances. Garlic and its relatives (onions, leeks, scallions, and chives) are shown to slow tumor growth and lower breast cancer risk along with other forms of cancer (such as colorectal and prostate cancers). Garlic and onions are often included in many ethnic foods including Italian, Spanish, Indian, Thai and Chinese dishes. Crush or slice a piece of garlic and eat it with your food -- that's all it takes to live a cancer-free life!

The compounds found in garlic also help block carcinogens from entering cells and slow tumor development. Diallyl sulfide, a component of garlic oil, has also been shown to render carcinogens in the liver inactive. Studies have linked garlic — as well as onions, leeks, and chives — to a lower risk of stomach and colon cancer. Dr. Lenore Arab, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the UNC-CH (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) schools of public health and medicine and colleagues analyzed a number of studies and reported their findings in the October 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. According to the report, people who consume raw or cooked garlic regularly face about half the risk of stomach cancer and two-thirds the risk of colorectal cancer as people who eat little or none. Their studies did NOT show garlic supplements had the same effect. It is believed garlic may help prevent stomach cancer because it has anti-bacterial effects against a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, found in the stomach and known to promote cancer there.

Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale
Broccoli, as a cruciferous (belonging to the plant family Cruciferae) vegetable along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale are all rich in sulforophane and indoles, which are shown to regulate cell growth in multiple ways and help fight a range of cancers, including breast, bladder, lymphoma, prostate and lung cancer. They also have two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin that may help decrease prostate and other cancers.

Sulforaphane — a compound in broccoli — reduced the number of breast cancer stem cells (which cause cancer spread and recurrence) in mice, according to research from the University of Michigan. Eating broccoli may not deliver enough sulforaphane to achieve the same effect, but to get the most you can, eat your broccoli raw or briefly steam or stir-fry the green florets. (Boiling destroys some of the sulforaphane.)

Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower have a chemical component called indole-3-carbinol that can combat breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen into a more protective variety. Broccoli, especially sprouts, also have the phytochemical sulforaphane, a product of glucoraphanin - believed to aid in preventing some types of cancer, like colon and rectal cancer. Sulforaphane induces the production of certain enzymes that can deactivate free radicals and carcinogens. The enzymes have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in laboratory animals. However, be aware that the Agriculture Department studied 71 types of broccoli plants and found a 30-fold difference in the amounts of glucoraphanin. It appears that the more bitter the broccoli is, the more glucoraphanin it has. Broccoli sprouts have been developed under the trade name BroccoSprouts that have a consistent level of sulforaphane - as much as 20 times higher than the levels found in mature heads of broccoli.

Kale has indoles, nitrogen compounds which may help stop the conversion of certain lesions to cancerous cells in estrogen-sensitive tissues. In addition, isothiocyanates, phytochemicals found in kale, are thought to suppress tumor growth and block cancer-causing substances from reaching their targets.

Brazil nuts
Uniquely rich in selenium, fiber, and phytochemicals, Brazil nuts can help fight inflammation, improve the immune system and prevent tumor growth. And you do not need many of them - a palmful can do the trick. Enjoy them as any other nut.

Dark-green leafy vegetables
Kale, collards, spinach, Swiss chard, and other dark-green leafy vegetables are considered a "one stop shop" for all the best nutrients your body needs to fend off cancerous cells, i.e. fiber, vitamin B, phytochemicals, chlorophyll and more. It's time to add some greens to your diet. Eat them fresh, raw or lightly steamed to preserve their valuable nutrients. Or add a handful to a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie.

Green tea
Consumption on a regular basis has been linked to lower incidence of breast cancer. The phytochemicals in green tea can well take the credit for its health benefits. One to two cups of green tea daily can help you keep cancer at bay.

Pick a pepper, any pepper! Most have some phytochemical or nutrient that will help fight cancer. Chili and jalapeno peppers have capsaicin (an active component of chilli peppers) that fight the growth rate of cancer cells. Green peppers are rich in chlorophyll which can bind cancer-causing carcinogens found in the gut. Red peppers have both capsaicin and antioxidant carotenoids. Put them in a vegetable stir-fry, eat them with hummus or add them to a fresh salad.

A spice commonly found around contains a cancer-fighting compound called curcumin which can inhibit many types of cancer cells, including breast, gastrointestinal, lung, and skin cancer. A pinch of turmeric fights the toughest of cancer-causing cells.

Tumeric (curcuma longa), is a member of the ginger family and is believed to have medicinal properties because it inhibits production of the inflammation-related enzyme cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), levels of which are abnormally high in certain inflammatory diseases and cancers, especially bowel and colon cancer. In fact, a pharmaceutical company Phytopharm in the UK hopes to introduce a natural product, P54, that contains certain volatile oils, which greatly increase the potency of the turmeric spice. 

They are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body by blocking intestinal absorption of certain fats. They also supply even more potassium than bananas and are a strong source of beta-carotene. Scientists also believe that avocados may also be useful in treating viral hepatitis (a cause of liver cancer), as well as other sources of liver damage.

Carrots have a lot of beta carotene, which may help reduce a wide range of cancers including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestinal, bladder, prostate and breast cancer. Some research has indicated that beta carotene, taken in large supplemental amounts, may actually cause cancer, but this has not proven that eating carrots, unless in very large quantities - 2 to 3 kilos a day - can cause cancer. In fact, a substance called falcarinol that is found in carrots has been found to reduce the risk of cancer, according to researchers at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences (DIAS). Kirsten Brandt, head of the research department, explained that isolated cancer cells grow more slowly when exposed to falcarinol. This substance is a polyacethylen, however, so it is important not to cook the carrots.

Chili peppers and jalapenos
They contain a chemical, capsaicin, which may neutralize certain cancer-causing substances (nitrosamines) and may help prevent cancers such as stomach cancer.

Figs apparently have a derivative of benzaldehyde. It has been reported by investigators at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Tokyo that benzaldehyde is highly effective at shrinking tumors.  In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says figs, which contain vitamins A and C, and calcium, magnesium and potassium, may curtail appetite and improve weight-loss efforts. Fig juice is also a potent bacteria killer in test-tube studies.

Like oranges and other citrus fruits, grapefruits contain monoterpenes, believed to help prevent cancer by sweeping carcinogens out of the body. Some studies show that grapefruit may inhibit the proliferation of breast-cancer cells in vitro. They also contains vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folic acid.

Red grapes have bioflavonoids, powerful antioxidants that work as cancer preventives. Grapes are also a rich source of resveratrol, which inhibits the enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth and suppress immune response. They also contain ellagic acid, a compound that blocks enzymes that are necessary for cancer cells - this appears to help slow the growth of tumors.

Green and yellow leafy vegetables
Studies show that consumption of green and yellow leafy vegetables is associated with lower levels of stomach cancer.

Licorice root
Licorice root has a chemical called glycyrrhizin that blocks a component of testosterone and therefore may help prevent the growth of prostate cancer. However, excessive amounts can lead to elevated blood pressure.

Nuts contain the antioxidants quercetin and campferol that may suppress the growth of cancers. Brazil nut contains 80 micrograms of selenium, which is important for those with prostate cancer. (Note: Many people are allergic to the proteins in nuts, so if you have any symptoms such as itchy mouth, tight throat, wheezing, etc. after eating nuts, stop. Consider taking a selenium supplement instead or work with someone on how to eliminate this allergy.)

Oranges and lemons
They contain Iimonene which stimulates cancer-killing immune cells (e.g. lymphocytes,) that may also break down cancer-causing substances.

Papayas have vitamin C that works as an antioxidant and may also reduce absorption of cancer-causing nitrosamines from the soil or processed foods. Papaya contains folacin (also known as folic acid), which has been shown to minimize cervical dysplasia and certain cancers.

Raspberries contain many vitamins, minerals, plant compounds and antioxidants known as anthocyanins that may protect against cancer. According to a recent research study reported by Cancer Research 2001;61:6112-6119, rats fed diets of 5% to 10% black raspberries saw the number of esophageal tumors decrease by 43% to 62%. A diet containing 5% black raspberries was more effective than a diet containing 10% black raspberries. Research reported in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in May 2002 shows black raspberries may also thwart colon cancer. Black raspberries are rich in antioxidants, thought to have even more cancer-preventing properties than blueberries and strawberries. 

Rosemary may help increase the activity of detoxification enzymes. An extract of rosemary, termed carnosol, has inhibited the development of both breast and skin tumors in animals. We haven't found any studies done on humans. Rosemary can be used as a seasoning. It can also be consumed as a tea: Use 1 tsp. dried leaves per cup of hot water; steep for 15 minutes.

Seaweed and other sea vegetables
They contain beta-carotene, protein, vitamin B12, fiber, and chlorophyll, as well as chlorophylones - important fatty acids that may help in the fight against breast cancer. Many sea vegetables also have high concentrations of the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and iodine.

Soy products like tofu
They contain several types of phytoestrogens — weak, nonsteroidal estrogens that could help prevent both breast and prostate cancer by blocking and suppressing cancerous changes. There are a number of isoflavones in soy products, but research has shown that genistein is the most potent inhibitor of the growth and spread of cancerous cells. It appears to lower breast-cancer risk by inhibiting the growth of epithelial cells and new blood vessels that tumors require to flourish and is being scrutinized as a potential anti-cancer drug. However, there are some precautions to consider when adding soy to your diet. Eating up to 4 or 5 ounces of tofu or other soy a day is probably ok, but research is being done to see if loading up on soy could cause hormone imbalances that stimulate cancer growth. As a precaution, women who have breast cancer or are at high risk should talk to their doctors before taking pure isoflavone powder and pills, extracted from soy.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain many anticancer properties, including beta-carotene, which may protect DNA in the cell nucleus from cancer-causing chemicals outside the nuclear membrane.

Teas: Green tea and Black tea
Green and black tea has certain antioxidants known as polyphenols (catechins) which appear to prevent cancer cells from dividing. Green tea is best, followed by our more common black tea (herbal teas do not show this benefit). According to a report in the July 2001 issue of the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, these polyphenols that are abundant in green tea, red wine and olive oil, may protect against various types of cancer. Dry green tea leaves, which are about 40% polyphenols by weight, may also reduce the risk of cancer of the stomach, lung, colon, rectum, liver and pancreas, study findings have suggested.

Tapioca is derived from the cassava plant. It is one of the many plants that manufacture cyanide by producing a chemical called linamarine which releases hydrogen cyanide when it is broken down by the linamarase enzyme. Spanish researches have been studying the cassava and attempting to clone the genes from the plant which are responsible for producing the hydrogen cyanide and then transfer it to a retrovirus. However, funding for the project has run out.

Turnips are said to contain glucose molaes which is a cancer fighting compound.

Olive Oil
Another reason to reach for extra-virgin olive oil: when researchers in Barcelona gave rats with breast cancer a diet in which fat came predominantly from extra-virgin olive oil (versus corn oil), they found that the olive oil’s antioxidants and oleic acid (a mono-unsaturated fat) quelled growth of malignant cells.

University of Missouri scientists found that this herb can actually inhibit cancer-cell growth. Animals that were given apigenin, a compound abundant in parsley (and in celery), boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors. Experts recommend adding a couple pinches of minced fresh parsley to your dishes daily.

Drinking about two 12-ounce coffees a day may lower your risk of an aggressive form of breast cancer, says a May 2011 study in Breast Cancer Research. “One possibility is that coffee’s antioxidants protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer,” says study author Jingmei Li, Ph.D. More research is needed, so don’t up your intake based on these findings just yet.

Plums & Peaches
Researchers at Texas A&M recently found that plums and peaches have antioxidant levels to rival “superfood” blueberries—and that they contain two types of polyphenols (antioxidants) that may help kill breast cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. This is good news, as 180,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year and traditional treatments often harm healthy cells.

According to a new report, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, upping your fiber intake may help lower your risk of breast cancer—and the more you eat, the more your risk decreases. The researchers found that for every 10 grams of fiber a woman added to her daily diet, her risk of breast cancer decreased by 7 percent. That’s about a 1/2 to one cup of beans, depending on the variety. Other foods packed with fiber include barley, bulgur, lentils, peas, artichokes, dates and raspberries. (Compiled and adapted from various Internet sources)