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Breast Cancer and Diet

Breast Cancer and Diet: A Possible Connection?

The exact relationship between breast cancer and diet is still murky, but limiting some foods - and eating more of others - may lessen a woman's risk according to Nikita Shah, MD, medical oncologist and breast cancer specialist with Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center.

New weapons in the dietary war on cancer are phytostrogens. These substances are found mainly in beans, especially soybeans. Some researchers think phytoestrogens may be responsible for lower rates of breast cancer in Asian countries, where soy is a staple of many women's diets. This continues to be researched and as of yet, there are no formal recommendations on the amount of soy in the diet. Consult with your oncologist or registered dietitian for more information regarding this topic. 

A number of studies have explored whether dietary fat can influence breast cancer risk. Some have suggested a possible link:
Omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial. Some studies indicate that these types of fat found in salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseed may help protect against breast cancer.

Saturated fats, found in beef, lamb, pork, dairy and trans fats found in processed foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, may increase risk. So, too, might polyunsaturated fats such as corn oil and safflower oil.

Other studies have found no link between dietary fat and breast cancer, regardless of fat type. As a result, experts don't agree on whether a low-fat diet can reduce a woman's risk.

However, a diet low in saturated fat does offer other health benefits, including protection from other cancers and chronic illness such as heart disease. The National Cancer Institute suggests women get no more than 30 percent of their daily calories from fat.

Research is similarly conflicting about fruit and vegetables and breast cancer risk. Some studies have suggested that high intakes may lower risk. One study found that, while very low intakes of fruits and vegetables may increase risk, very high intakes did not reduce it.

For more information, call the Cancer Center at 321.841.7246.