Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast cancer researchers have been exploring how and why different food choices can help prevent breast cancer and improve survival rates if it is diagnosed.
Some diets have a major effect and can help people diagnosed with breast cancer live longer, while other diets seem to lend to the growth of cancer cells. A diet that is high in fiber and low in fat has been shown to reduce the amount of the hormone estrogen present in the bloodstream. Controlling the amount of estrogen in the body seems to reduce the possibility that cancer cells will spread or multiply. The vitamins found in fruits and vegetables help the cells of the body function efficiently, which can help improve survival after diagnosis.
Research has also shown that diets with fat- and cholesterol-laden dairy products appear to raise the chance of developing cancer. Breast cancer has been linked to dairy consumption, possibly because dairy products boost insulin-like growth factor 1 production in the body, which decreases vitamin D stimulation. Similarly, cancer is much more common in societies that consume large amounts of meat products. This may have to do with the high-fat and fiber-free characteristics of meat, compared with the low-fat and fiber-rich characteristics of plant foods. Additionally, when meat products are cooked and become dark, lined, or burnt, cancer-causing chemicals called heterocyclic amines form.
Although many factors may lend to cancer formation, high-fat, low-fiber foods boost the specific hormones that promote cancer growth. Specifically, diets rich in meat and dairy products, fried foods, and vegetable oils cause a woman’s body to create more estrogen, a growth hormone. This extra estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer and other cancers that are sensitive to female sex hormones. Evidence suggests that estrogen not only encourages the growth of preformed cancer cells, but can also spark the transformation of healthy cells into cancer cells. A low-fat, high-fiber diet causes the amount of estrogen in a woman’s blood to drop, making diet an important player in cancer prevention. This drop does not impact a woman’s fertility, but it lessens the stimulus for cancer cell growth. The Physicians Committee’s Power Plate is a simple and effective guide to maximizing health while following a low-fat, plant-based diet. The Power Plate describes the benefits of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, which are essential to healthful living. The idea is to build your daily meals by choosing a variety from each of these groups to boost your nutrient intake. Build your plate to resemble the colors of the rainbow, and you can be sure that you are getting adequate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help fight free radical damage and, in turn, cancer development.