Breast Cancer

Overview: Diet, Nutrition, and Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women: approximately 12% of all women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, and 2.7% of all women will die of it. The median age at diagnosis is 61 years, and nearly all - 98.5% - of women diagnosed with localized breast cancer survive for at least five years. Unfortunately, this five-year survival rate drops to just 25% for cancer with distant metastases at diagnosis. Numerous studies have looked at the way specific diets and foods have increased or decreased the risk of developing breast cancer. Breast Cancer Overview »

Breast Cancer Research News

Good News About Grapefruit and Breast Cancer
It's become one of those emails that people seem to forward obsessively, along with the ones about waking up with a kidney missing and anti-perspirants leading to breast cancer (there's no proof of that, either). Except this one was true: almost a year ago there appeared a study in the British Journal of Cancer that seemed to link eating more than 1/4 of a grapefruit each day to an increased incidence of breast cancer. A lot of women I know - patients and colleagues among them - quit eating grapefruit completely.

Mediterranean Diet and Breast Cancer Risk
We know that following a Mediterranean style diet is linked with lower incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancers. Until recently, few studies have looked specifically at the Mediterranean Diet and the risk of breast cancer. Those studies that have been published have looked at only olive oil and breast cancer, or have taken place in the United States, where most people do not adhere to a Mediterranean Diet.

Red Meat and Breast Cancer in Women
There have been links to an increased risk of cancer in those who eat higher amounts of red meat. So far this has not been shown in women with breast cancer, however. In a study published this week a group of researchers looked at a large number of women to determine if this might be the case.

Soy and Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Many cancer docs tell those women with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer to avoid eating soybeans. Why? Because they contain a comparatively high level of isoflavones (phytoestrogens), which are naturally occurring chemicals that resemble natural estrogen. Soybeans (edamame) are a major source of protein in the Asian diet, and at least one study has reported that Chinese women who eat a lot of soy actually have a reduced risk of breast cancer. Which is right?

Caffeine and the Risk of Breast Cancer
At some point in their lives, as many as half of all women have what is called benign breast disease. This catch-all term can include such diagnoses as fibrocystic breast disease, mastitis (inflammation of the breast), or simply "lumpy breasts." Having benign breast disease is sometimes linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but this is only true if a breast biopsy shows the presence of abnormal breast cells.

Big news on breast cancer prevention
Back in 2010 I shared with you a long-term, large-scale study carried out in Greece that looked at the relationship between women's Mediterranean Diet score and their risk of breast cancer. Postmenopausal women with a score of at least 6 (out of nine possible points) were 41% less likely to develop breast cancer than those with scores of 3 or less.

Multivitamins Linked to Breast Cancer
I don't normally report on vitamin supplement research. If you read my The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan Coaching essay this past Monday, you know that it's pretty clear that getting your vitamins from foods is better than taking them in pill form. Given that so many people take a multivitamin, however, I felt that this study was worth sharing with my readers.

Good Food News for Breast Cancer Survivors
Estrogen plays an important role in breast cancer, and estrogen-blocking medications such as tamoxifen are widely used to help prevent recurrence. This quite reasonably has led to concern about foods containing phytoestrogens – naturally-occurring estrogen receptor modulators that are seen mostly in the form of isoflavones. (Remember that isoflavones are types of flavonoids, like those in red wine.)

Calcium and Vitamin D - and Breast Cancer
In 1993 and 1995 a total of over 30,000 women over 45 years of age participated in The Women's Health Study, a large-scale, long term study involving thousands of women across the United States. The participants provided medical history, lifestyle factors (such as smoking or exercise), and answered a detailed dietary questionnaire (Arch Intern Med 2007;167(10):1050-1059). Participants reported on over 100 different foods, beverages, and supplement items such as calcium and vitamin D and estimated their average intake over the previous 12 months.

Breast Cancer and Calcium Supplements
You may have heard that certain vitamin supplements can help you reduce your risk of breast cancer. One in particular that you've probably heard about is calcium supplements with vitamin D. Many doctors say that women would do well to take a calcium supplement containing vitamin D in order to help prevent bone loss. The science for the current recommendations of 1200 milligrams per day may not be great, but there is some. The proof for calcium and breast cancer, however, doesn't appear to be nearly as good.

Ask Dr. Gourmet Questions About Breast Cancer

I'm on chemo - what can I eat that will taste good?
...[I] find myself on chemo for lymphoma and just wondered if you all had done any research at all on how to make things palatable when the tastebuds go awry. I know what to eat and what not to - I just don't know how to make it taste bearable.

What are your suggestions for eating during chemotherapy?
I'm undergoing chemotherapy for B cell lymphoma. Are there any tasty recipes you can recommend that are high in calories to help stop the weight loss?

As a cancer survivor, can I follow the same diet as my diabetic husband?
My husband is diabetic, and I am a cancer survivor. With the guidelines given to me to minimize recurring of the cancer, as well as my health in general after chemo, it seems easier for me to follow a diabetic diet than it would be to try and fix 2 different meals twice a day. Would I be starving my cells and ultimately doing more harm than good if I were to follow his diet?

Does caffeine increase the risk of cancer?
I have always wondered about the effect of caffeine on breast cancer. Does caffeine encourage breast cancer or increase the risk of breast cancer or any other cancer because it speeds up the body's metabolism? I use decaffeinated coffee (about 1/2 teaspoon of decaffeinated coffee crystals daily). Am I putting myself at risk?

Are Mung beans safe for those with breast cancer?
I would like to know if a daily breakfast diet of Mung beans would be allowed for a woman who is estrogen receptor positive for breast cancer. I see that Mung beans are closely related to soy products, which have phytoestrogens. Soy products are not allowed for women who are estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients.

Is edamame (soy beans) safe for breast cancer survivors?
I am a 46 year old woman and was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer in Dec. of 2007. I had a lumpectomy and a sentinal lymphectomy followed by 30 treatments of radiation. In May of 2008 I had an oovarectomy because of many complicated cysts on both ovaries. I had started taking Tamoxifen in March 2008 and was taken off of it by my oncologist in June 2008. She thought it wasn't necessary because I am without estrogen producing ovaries now.

I have recently discovered edamame and love it! It has helped immensely with the hot flashes and night sweats I've been dealing with.

I was hoping you could elaborate on the effects of edamame on women in my situation. I understand it is good for young girls but what about a woman of 46 who was suddenly thrown into menopause?


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