Eat to Help Prevent Breast Cancer

By: Lori Kase  |  September/October 2016
While nothing is a sure bet, these promising eating strategies may help lower your risk of breast cancer
Watch: How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet
About one in eight American women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime—more than 246,000 women (and about 2,600 men) are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 alone. Though studies have identified cancer-fighting compounds in certain foods (particularly carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables like carrots and tomatoes), experts increasingly believe it's the overall diet pattern that counts the most. Here are some promising eating strategies to lower your risk of breast cancer.
Go Mediterranean. It's not just good for your heart. Women following a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and extra-virgin olive oil were 68 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than women put on a low-fat diet, Spanish researchers found. Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower cancer rates in general, but this is the first study to show a benefit for breast cancer specifically.
Try It: 7-Day Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
Limit Sugar. Added sugar isn't so sweet for breast cancer risk, suggests preliminary research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Mice who got upwards of 12.5 percent of their calories from added sugar were significantly more likely than mice on a no-added-sugar diet to develop breast cancer. (The average American gets 13 percent of their daily calories from added sugar.) The researchers found that the sweet stuff triggered enzymes leading to inflammation, which is thought to play a role in this disease. While results in people haven't been quite so dramatic, research suggests that sugar appears to have a similar impact on humans. Another bonus: cutting back on added sugar to about 24 grams (or less than 5 percent of your daily calories) per day can help you stay slim—important, since obesity is also associated with breast cancer risk.
Try It: What a No-Sugar-Added Day Looks Like
Close the Kitchen After Dinner. In a study of women already diagnosed with breast cancer, those who put at least 13 hours between dinner and breakfast cut their risk of recurrence by 36 percent and had better blood sugar control, according to a new University of California, San Diego study. The researchers are optimistic that their findings may apply to preventing breast cancer, since high blood sugar may increase your risk for the disease.
Read More:
9 Foods for Breast Cancer Prevention
Does a Cancer Prevention Diet Really Exist?
Healthy Mediterranean Recipes