Diet and breast cancer

Diet is thought to be partly responsible for about 30% to 40% of all cancers, but diet alone is unlikely to be the "cause" or "cure" of cancer.  No food or diet can prevent you from getting breast cancer, although some foods can make your body the healthiest it can be, boost your immune system, and help keep your risk for breast cancer as low as possible.  No food or diet can cure cancer, though some of them may help control treatment side effects or help your body get well after treatment. Some food choices may help cancer treatment work more effectively or may help keep you healthy.


Research on diet and breast cancer is on-going. Studies on maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the risk of first time breast cancer suggest that overweight women have an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause compared to women at a healthy weight.

Studies also indicate that sticking to a low-fat diet may help reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back. One study in which women got only about 25% of their daily calories from fat found a lower risk of recurrence, mostly in women who'd been diagnosed with estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer. It will take more than this one study to know who is most likely to get the biggest benefit from specific dietary changes.  No matter what kind of cancer you've had, you might get significant benefit from lowering the amount of fat in your diet.  Plus, other healthy choices are more likely to come with a low-fat diet, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and losing weight. All these changes together may help lower your risk of recurrence.

In the meantime, here's what dieticians suggest:

  • Keep your body weight in a healthy range for your height and frame.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit (more than 5 portions a day).
  • Try to limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your total calories per day, and limit your fat intake to about 30 grams per day.
  • Eat foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Avoid trans fats, processed meats, and charred or smoked foods.

You'll find that processed foods generally don't fit in this type of diet as well as fresh foods do.

Source: - Dr Cyndi Thomson, Ph.D., R.D, Professor in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona

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