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Breast Cancer Risk May Decrease With Improved Diet

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an improved diet may help reduce your risk for breast cancer Hemera/Thinkstock

Did you know that 25 percent of cancers could be prevented just by modifying our diet?

Some research suggests as many as 35 percent of cases could be prevented by changing diet. (1) That’s 35 out of every 100 cases.

Japanese women have less breast cancer compared with American women. It would seem that this isn’t genetic because if Japanese women come to live in the United States, their rates of breast cancer go up, pointing to an environmental or lifestyle cause.(1)

What Types of Foods are Thought to Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer?


Higher consumption of meat has been shown in some research to increase the likelihood of breast cancer. The greater amount of meat consumed, the higher the risk, and this was particularly significant for postmenopausal women. (2)


Fats are also thought to increase the risk of breast cancer and reducing fats in the diet has been helpful to women who already have early-stage breast cancer and are receiving conventional medical treatments for it. (3)

There is some evidence that reduced fat consumption can improve treatment outcomes and in one study published in the Journal of the National Institute of Cancer, a reduced fat diet lessened the risk of cancer recurring in women who had recovered from breast cancer.(3)

John E. Niederhuber, M.D said, “Certainly there is accumulating evidence that a healthy lifestyle -- reduced fat consumption and exercise -- is a worthy goal to decrease risk and to optimize long-term therapy outcome."


The American Cancer Society also say that alcohol consumption is connected to breast cancer and the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of getting breast cancer. More cases occur in heavy drinkers but the risk is still increased even if you only drink a few alcoholic drinks per week. (4)

Scientists aren’t sure how alcohol may be linked with cancer. It could be because it disrupts hormones that control the functioning of the body. It could also be because alcohol may be carcinogenic because of the way it is produced. (4)

Phytochemicals in Fruit and Vegetables

Phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables protect them from viruses, bacteria and fungi and these can also help people who consume them. The ones that contain the most of these helpful chemicals are brightly colored plants (for instance, red, orange, yellow, green and purple).

Phytochemicals are also present in wholegrains and beans. Preliminary studies suggest they help prevent the development of cancer. (5)

Vitamin C

The National Cancer Institute says that vitamin C may provide protection against breast cancer. (5) Vitamin C is available from oranges, strawberries, peppers, broccoli and sweet potatoes just to list a few examples.

Vitamin C is also available as a supplement which can provide higher amounts than could be obtained from food. Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute say that if a patient is having chemotherapy for cancer, the maximum limit for vitamin C should be 500 mgs per day.(5)

Some clinics such as the Linus Pauling Institute, have used intravenous vitamin C at much higher levels as a treatment for cancer. Linus Pauling used 10,000 mcgs intravenously for 10 days and orally thereafter to help terminal cancer patients.

It should be pointed out that he was in favor of vitamin C megadoses for many conditions. (7)

A 2006 study showed that the vitamin is toxic to some cancer cells in the laboratory.(6)

The Canadian Medical Association say that the issue of vitamin C and cancer should be looked at again as there is "clinically plausibility" that intravenous vitamin C may have a benefit in treating cancer. (6)

Pro-Vitamin A

This vitamin, also known as beta-carotene, may decrease the risk of developing cancer. The American Society says it may do this by increasing the amount of white blood cells in your immune system that help protect you from sickness and from free radical damage. It may be useful to people with cancer as well.(5)

Beta-carotene is available from dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, oranges and orange and yellow vegetables like carrots. Making sure you have plenty of these could improve your health.


1. An Overview of Diet and Breast Cancer, Cancer Research UK. Web. 12 September 2011.

2. Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer in the UK Women's Cohort Study, British Journal of Cancer (2007) 96, 1139–1146. Full Text:

3. Reduced Levels of Fat in the Diet May Decrease the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence According to New Clinical Trial, National Cancer Institute. Web. 12 September 2012.

4. Alcohol and Cancer, Cancer.org. Web. 12 September 2012.

5. Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk, Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute. Web. 12 September 2012.

6. Re-Assessment Urged for Intravenous Vitamin C and Cancer, Medpage Today. Web. 12 September 2012.

7. Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: Prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1976 October; 73(10): 3685–3689. Full Text:

Reviewed September 14, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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