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8 Dietary Strategies To Promote Healthy Breast Tissue And Reduce Breast Cancer Risks

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a leading cause of death in women, breast cancer directly or indirectly touches the lives of millions of Canadians. Along with a balanced lifestyle, adequate sleep and exercise, dietary choices can either promote healthy breast tissue and/or reduce the risk for abnormal cell growth. This article highlights 8 evidence-based dietary strategies to keep your breasts healthy, check them out below:

Note: This article should not be used in place of medical advice and has not been reviewed by Health Canada. Always consult a regulated health care practitioner before using any supplements or changing your diet.

woman_happy_sunset1. Vegetarian diets

  • Women that are vegetarian have larger stool volume and higher levels of estrogens are excreted in their stool compared to omnivore women
  • Since seventy percent of breast cancer cells synthesize estrogen themselves using an enzyme called aromatase, it is important to have healthy estrogen elimination pathways in the body. Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, green onions, and spinach have been shown to drop aromatase activity by about 20%

2. Eat more mushrooms

  • White button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporous) are a potential breast cancer chemopreventive agent, as they suppress estrogen biosynthesis through the enzyme aromatase (dropping this enzyme by more than 60%)
  • Positive Effects have been seen after eating as little as 100g or 5 mushrooms daily

3. Limit eggs and chicken

  • While eggs are a readily available source of protein, researchers have found that the high levels of dioxins, a potent xenoestrogen found in egg may increase cancer risk
  • These foods also contain very high amounts of arachidonic acid, which is a precursor to inflammation in the body. In fact, eggs are only second to poultry in arachidonic acid levels

4. Eat your broccoli and broccoli sprouts

  • Cruciferous vegetables are perhaps the most powerful food group to reduce estrogen related cancer risks. Theses vegetables contain a group of natural compounds called glucosinolates that support liver detoxification and hormone elimination pathways. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts are the vegetables with the highest levels of these beneficial compounds
  • For optimal effect they should be eaten raw and chewed well so the enzyme that activates sulforaphane is released

5. Get your soy

  • Soy is known to be a source of healthy estrogens, and soy foods have the distinction of both helping prevent certain types of  breast cancer and improving survival
  • Additionally, soy reduces cholesterol and balances blood sugar, while helping to improve weight loss
  • Try to only use organic and non-GMO
  • Pre-menopausal women are recommended daily intake of soy while  post-menopausal women are suggested soy to be consumed  2-3 times/week

6. All about the flax

  • Flax extends the menstrual cycle and results in less exposure to estrogen
  • Flax is also a source of lignans (a type of fibre) which supports health elimination pathways for estrogens
  • Seeds can be kept fresh for a year if sealing in an airtight container
  • Ground flax is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and fibre

7. Avoid Dairy

  • High fat dairy products (cream, cheese, butter, etc.) as they have higher levels of xenoestrogens and cow estrogens that can increase abnormal cell growth
  • Skim milk has higher levels of steroid hormones
  • Milk also contains growth factors (i.e. IGF-1) that can promote the growth of abnormal cells
  • The milk protein casein is often considered one of the most carcinogenic dietary substances

8. Balance your blood sugar and lose excess weight

  • High insulin is a power stimulator of cancer cell growth and high insulin comes from refined carbohydrates
  • Fat cells also have been shown to have higher aromatase activity and cal lead to estrogen excess
  • Avoid refined sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup, sweets, white breads, pasta, white rice and high sugar fruits (peaches, bananas etc)
  • Some high risk individuals may benefit from reducing the amount of calories consumed daily by 20-25%

 

References:

  1.    McCann SE, Kulkarni S, Trevisan M, Vito D, Nie J, Edge SB, Muti P, Freudenheim JL. Dietary lignan intakes and risk of breast cancer by tumor estrogen receptor status. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2006 Oct;99(3):309-11. Epub 2006 Mar 16.
  2.    Pruthi S, Thompson SL, Novotny PJ, Barton DL, Kottschade LA, Tan AD, Sloan JA, Loprinzi CL. Pilot evaluation of flaxseed for the management of hot flashes. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2007 Summer;5(3):106-12.
  3.    Åberg et al. Tamoxifen and flaxseed alter angiogenesis regulators in normal human breast tissue in vivo. PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25720. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025720. Epub 2011 Sep 30.
  4.    Aune et al.  Egg consumption and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2009;10(5):869-76.
  5.    Chen et al. Anti-aromatase activity of phytochemicals in white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). Cancer Res. 2006 Dec 15;66(24):12026-34.
  6.    Grube BJ, Eng ET, Kao YC, Kwon A, Chen S. White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr. 2001 Dec;131(12):3288-93.
  7.    Goldin et al. Estrogen excretion patterns and plasma levels in vegetarian and omnivorous women. Engl J Med. 1982 Dec 16;307(25):1542-7.
  8. Adams LS, Chen S. Phytochemicals for breast cancer prevention by targeting aromatase. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2009 Jan 1;14:3846-63.

4 Comments

  1. Betty Reply

    Re: eggs and chicken: do certified & organically raised chickens and eggs still contain quantities of Dioxins, xenestrogens and arachidonic acid to cause breast cancer?

    Does organic goat milk & cow’s milk, and cheese still contain carcinonogens? I shall find it very difiicult to have to give them up and not enjoy these foods anymore for fear of getting breast cancer.
    Please respond,

    betty

    1. Dr. Hrkal Reply

      Hi Betty,

      You are right that even organic foods (dairy and meats) contain dioxins but at substantially lower levels then non-organic foods.
      As part of an anti-cancer diet, animal foods in general should be limited with higher amounts of plants foods consumed. After that, if you still want to include animal products I suggest they be organic. Please discuss with your heath care practitioner.

      Dr Paul Hrkal ND

  2. ML Reply

    Should that read “non” GMO?

    1. Dr. NavNirat Nibber Reply

      Good Catch! Thanks Mary

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