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Your Breast Cancer Prevention Plan
by: Diane di Costanzo
Given the fact that cancer causes an estimated 500,000 deaths per year, there is seldom any really good news about the disease. So there was cause for hope when the American Cancer Society (ACS) released a report in June 2005 declaring that at least half of all cancer-related deaths could be prevented via lifestyle changes and better use of established screening tools.
This is especially true of breast cancer, which has been the subject of extensive research looking at links between diet and the disease—and has widely accessible strategies in place for its early detection. More good news: The anti-breast cancer lifestyle reduces your risk of nearly every major illness, including diabetes and heart disease. Here's how to get started on your Breast Cancer Prevention plan:
Breast Cancer Prevention Part 1: Eat an Anti-Cancer Diet
It seems as if there's a news report every week linking risk reduction for various cancers with specific foods, from broccoli to blueberries. But the most important diet-related precaution is this: Overweight and obesity are two leading contributors to cancer and cancer deaths. Are you at a healthy weight? To find out, calculate your body mass index, then, if need be, take steps to lose the extra pounds. When grocery shopping, use this guide to make your best anti-breast cancer choices:
Favor these foods:
* Olive oil: Your most favorable fats come from olives, nuts, and other monounsaturated sources, according to a Swedish study that also found that "bad" polyunsaturated fats increase breast cancer risk.
* Leafy greens: Fill your salad bowl with the darkest-green greens, which contain folate, a B vitamin linked to the reduction of breast cancer risk.
* Soy: Science is studying how compounds derived from soy and soy products—called soy isoflavones—may interfere with estrogen's cancer-causing effects. Enjoy soy in tofu, smoothies made with soy protein powder, soy milk, and soy-based yogurt.
* Calcium-rich dairy products: Consuming two or three servings of dairy products daily is linked to lower breast cancer risk, according to American Cancer Society research that studied postmenopausal women only. The same reduction was not seen among women who took calcium supplements. Note that low-fat dairy is a better choice than full-fat (see "Consume in Moderation," below). * Legumes: Eating a couple of servings per week of beans and lentils, which contain flavonols, appears to lower breast cancer risk, according to research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Consume in moderation—or avoid altogether:
* Animal fats: Studies involving both pre- and postmenopausal women showed significant reductions in breast cancer incidence among women whose diets were not heavy in animal sources of fat, including red meat, dairy, and butter.
* Alcohol: Forget the heart-healthy benefits of red wine. With regard to breast cancer, consuming 30 grams of alcohol, or approximately two alcoholic drinks per day, increases incidence by 80%, according to a study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. A well-regarded American Cancer Society study found that even an average of one drink a day or less increased a postmenopausal woman's chances of dying from breast cancer by 30% compared to women who did not consume any alcohol. And it doesn't appear that the type of alcohol consumed makes a difference, with beer, wine, and liquor all producing the same increase.
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