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Guide to Preventing Breast Cancer   ( Home | Diet | Foods | Recipes )

Diet Plan for Breast Cancer Prevention (Cont'd)

Following a diet plan designed to prevent breast cancer involves eating foods that are rich in cancer-preventing nutrients on one hand, and avoiding foods that contain potentially carcinogenic substances. This section of's Guide to Breast Cancer Prevention focuses on dietary habits that may help reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

Note that this is the second page of a two-page article on diet and breast cancer. If you missed the first page, click here.

Studies confirm the breast cancer fighting properties of garlic.

#9: Include Allicin-Containing Foods in Your Diet

Since 1950s, several studies have shown allicin to inhibit the development of tumors and to prevent certain types of cancer when consumed regularly. Allicin is a compound that is found in garlic and other members of the Allium family, such as onions and scallions, when the plant is crushed or chopped. Population studies show that countries where people eat a lot of garlic (e.g. China, Japan, France) have a lower incidence of breast cancer. To reap garlic's breast cancer fighting benefits, allow crushed garlic sit for 10 minutes before eating or cooking — this leaves enough time for allicin to form after crushing. To learn more about the amazing benefits of garlic for women, read the in-depth article Garlic in Breast Cancer Prevention.

#10: Avoid Excess Protein

In 1902, Dr John Beard of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland discovered that pancreatin — a mix of enzymes that are involved in the digestion of proteins — also play a key role in the defense against proliferating cancer cells. Diets that are extremely high in protein keep the pancreatic enzymes busy digesting protein, and consequently these enzymes are left with little time to do their other job, the eradication of tumors. Some nutritionists recommend skipping protein at one or two meals a day to allow the body a protein-free period to efficiently prevent breast cancer.

Carotenoid-rich foods, such as tomatoes, may guard against breast cancer.

#11: Get Enough Vitamin A and Carotenoids

Research suggests that there is an inverse relationship between the risk of cancer and the consumption of foods rich in vitamin A and its precursors, the carotenoids. Carotenoids are plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potato, kale, spinach, and collard greens their orange, yellow, and green colors. There are more than 600 different carotenoids, but the most common carotenoids in the Western diet include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. The protective effect of these substances has been shown to be particularly strong for lung cancer, but also the risk of breast cancer may be significantly reduced by including a variety of carotenoid-rich foods in diet.

#12: Avoid Foods That May Be Contaminated with Aflatoxins

Certain types of fungus that grow on food can produce carcinogenic toxins during food processing, transport, and storage. These toxins include the remarkably potent aflatoxins which may lead to a higher risk of breast cancer due to their ability to damage DNA. Peanuts appear to be particularly susceptible to contamination with aflatoxins, but also many other types of foods, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, and spices are vulnerable to the fungus producing aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are very stable and cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing, but care in selecting your foods can greatly reduce your risk of exposure to these toxins:

  • Select fresh seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains (or at least avoid nuts and grains from last year's harvest)
  • Look for signs of proper storage and avoid foods from countries that have substandard storage requirements
  • Discard nuts that taste stale or look suspicious
  • Eat green vegetables that are rich in chlorophyll to further reduce the risk of harmful impacts of aflatoxins; chlorophyll has been shown to reduce aflatoxins levels

#13: Reduce Fat Intake, Especially From Animal Fat

A high dietary intake of animal fat has been associated with an increased breast cancer risk. One study showed that the rate of breast cancer among premenopausal women who followed a diet highest in animal fats was a third higher than that in women whose diet consisted of little animal fats. One compound that may play a role in the development breast cancer in women who consume lots of animal fats is arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that is found primarily in red meats, egg yolks and organ meats. Arachidonic acid has been shown to promote cancer growth and its spread within the body, and some evidence suggests that arachidonic acid may also be capable of destroying special cells involved in the protection against cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel and in a few other foods including flaxseed and walnuts, are believed to have the protective effect against cancer. It has been suggested that these fatty acids may block the effect of estrogen on breast cells, thereby lowering the risk of these cells becoming cancerous. Some experts believe that the incidence of breast cancer among Eskimo women is low due to the high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in a typical Eskimo diet. Nevertheless, experts recommend limiting the total intake of fat to approximately 20% of total caloric intake because all dietary fat stimulates the production of bile which may be converted into apocholic acid, a proven carcinogen, if a lot of fat stagnates in the large intestine for too long.

The lignans in flaxseed inhibit the action of excess estrogen.

#14: Eat Plenty of Foods Rich in Lignans

Lignans are a type of phytochemical found in high amounts in flaxseeds and whole grains. These compounds have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in a number of ways, most notably due to their ability to inhibit the action of excess estrogen in the body. High amounts of the female hormone estrogen in the body have been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, inclusion of lignans in the diet can lead to a prolonged menstrual cycle in women, which is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. This is because a longer menstrual cycle means less frequent exposure to estradiol, the most aggressive form of estrogen.

#15: Push Up Your Vitamin C and Vitamin E Levels

Vitamins C and E. Vitamins C and vitamin E are potent antioxidants which help neutralize cancer-causing free radicals and boost the immune system. Furthermore, laboratory studies have shown that vitamin E inhibits the growth of certain cancers, particularly hormone responsive cancers such as breast cancer, both in test tubes and in animals. Several human studies also confirm the effectiveness of vitamin C and vitamin E at preventing breast cancer. One study that was conducted to determine the status of certain nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin E, in breast cancer patients and controls found that the mean vitamin C and vitamin E levels were lower in breast cancer patients than in healthy individuals. There was a 84% and 77% lower risk of breast cancer if the levels of vitamin C and vitamin E were increased by 1 unit. The sample in the study consisted of 160 breast cancer patients and an equal number of healthy women.

#16: Be Sure to Get Enough Zinc

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that glands in the breast have special zinc requirements resulting from their need to transfer great amounts of zinc into milk during lactation. When nursing women's breasts are deficient in zinc or zinc is not properly metabolized, breast cancer may develop. Inadequate zinc supply were also linked to the transition, progression, and spread of the breast cancer. Other research shows that the primary gene protecting women from breast cancer, p53, requires zinc, and in the absence of zinc, the gene becomes mutated. This may result in p53 becoming dysfunctional and consequently cause breast cancer.

For more information on the nutritional approach to combating breast cancer, continue to: