Healthy Eating & Breast Cancer Risk
Most studies have not found a link between specific foods and breast cancer [1-5]. For example, eating lots of fruits and vegetables does not appear to lower breast cancer risk. However, a healthy diet promotes overall health and may help protect against other types of cancer and other diseases [6-8].
Along with regular exercise, a healthy diet is a good way to maintain a healthy weight. While we do not fully understand how diet affects breast cancer, body weight is related to breast cancer risk and overall survival. For women who are postmenopausal, being overweight and weight gain increase breast cancer risk [9-10]. And for survivors, being overweight and weight gain appear to reduce survival [11-13].
Breast cancer survivors should follow the same healthy diet recommended for everyone. To promote overall health and possibly reduce the risk of breast cancer, everyone should try to [7-8]:
- Be physically active (get regular exercise).
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Get at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Choose 100 percent whole grain foods (like 100 percent whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, popcorn and quinoa) more often.
- Limit red meat and processed meat (choose chicken, fish or beans instead).
- Cut down on "bad" fats (saturated and trans fats), and eat more "good" fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, like olive and canola oil).
- Get enough vitamin D and calcium every day. For women and men ages 51 to 70, this means 600 IU of vitamin D and 1,200 mg of calcium. For men ages 51 to 70, this means 600 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium.
- Take a daily multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid (often called folate on nutrition labels).
- If you drink alcohol, limit to drink less than one drink of alcohol a day (for women and fewer than two drinks a day for men). Those who drink alcohol should try to get enough folic acid, either through a multivitamin or foods like oranges, orange juice, leafy green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals.
Adapted from the American Cancer Society's Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity [7-8], Washington University School of Medicine's Siteman Cancer Center's Your Disease Risk  and Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D .
Learn more about healthy behaviors and breast cancer risk.
Learn more about specific dietary factors and breast cancer risk.
Learn more about body weight, weight gain and breast cancer risk.
Learn more about healthy behaviors and breast cancer survival.
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The following recipes were provided by Natural Standard, the authority on integrative medicine. These recipes are meant to encourage healthy (and delicious) food choices, not necessarily reduce your risk of breast cancer.
- Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D, Yaun SS, et al. Intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. JAMA. 285(6): 769-76, 2001.
- Smith-Warner SA, Speigelman D, Adami HO, et al. Types of dietary fat and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Int J Cancer. 92:767-774, 2001.
- Missmer SA, Smith-Warner S-A, Spiegelman D, et al. Meat and dairy food consumption and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Int J Epidemiol. 31(1):78-85, 2002.
- Prentice RL, Chlebowski RT, Patterson R, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of invasive breast cancer: the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA. 295(6):629-42, 2006.
- Dong JY, Zhang L, He K, Qin LQ. Dairy consumption and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 127(1):23-31, 2011.
- McCullough ML, Patel AV, Kushi LH, et al. Following cancer prevention guidelines reduces risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 20(6):1089-97, 2011.
- Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. for the American Cancer Society 2010 Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA Cancer J Clin. 62(1):30-67, 2012.
- Rock CL, Doyle C, Demark-Wahnefried W, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA Cancer J Clin. 62(4):243-74, 2012.
- van den Brandt PA, Spiegelman D, Yaun S, et al. Pooled analysis of prospective cohort on height, weight, and breast cancer risk. Am J Epidemiol. 152(6):514-527, 2000.
- Eliassen AH, Colditz GA, Rosner B, et al. Adult weight change and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. JAMA. 296(2):193-201, 2006.
- Protani M, Coory M, Martin JH. Effect of obesity on survival of women with breast cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 123(3):627-35, 2010.
- Ewertz M, Jensen MB, Gunnarsdóttir KA, et al. Effect of obesity on prognosis after early-stage breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 29(1):25-31, 2011.
- Kroenke CH, Chen WY, Rosner B, Holmes MD. Weight, weight gain, and survival after breast cancer diagnosis. J Clin Oncol. 23(7):1370-8, 2005.
- Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine. Your Disease Risk. http://www.yourdiseaserisk.wustl.edu, 2010.
- Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Ross CA, Taylor CL, Yaktine AL, Del Valle HB (eds.). Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. The National Academies Press, National Academy of Sciences: Washington, D.C. http://www.iom.edu/vitaminD, 2010.