In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an associate of mine, Dr. Juena Suk, was kind enough to answer some questions I had about the link between diet and breast cancer. Please read this important information and start incorporating it into your life!
Diet and breast cancer, is there a link?
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women today (lung cancer, though, is the leading cause of death by cancer for women). Yes, we all know that catching breast cancer early with yearly mammograms, monthly self breast examinations and yearly breast examinations by a physician can save lives and improve outcome, but as a specialist in diagnosing breast cancer, I have often wondered about what, if anything, we can do to prevent the disease?
We are what we eat, but can what we eat prevent cancer?
The answer is YES for many different types of cancers including the 2nd and 3rd most common cancers in women, namely lung and colorectal cancer. It is a well established link that diets high in vegetables and fruits lower risk for both these types of cancers. The jury is still out on whether vegetables and fruits lower the risk of breast cancer but it has been repeatedly shown that being overweight does increase your risk for breast cancer. Consumption of excess alcohol (excess can mean more than 1 serving of alcohol a day) has also been associated with an increased risk. Although studies are ongoing, some results have shown that moderate exercise 30 minutes a day along with a high vegetable and fruit intake can result in a survival advantage in women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Although there are contradictory results on the effects of antioxidants in decreasing your risk for breast cancer, eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits is consistently associated with a decreased risk for colon cancer, lung cancer, (not to mention the less common but devastating pancreatic cancer), and prevents the most common diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity (a risk factor for breast cancer). Isn’t that enough to make you run out and buy a large bowl of broccoli and fruit?
So what CAN we do?
*Try to eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, it really isn’t as much as you think. Each serving is only the size of a fist or half a cup (1 cup for raw leafy vegetables). Start with breakfast e.g., a spinach and cheese omelette. Carrot sticks and other cut up veggies can be a welcome crunch at breakfast too! Make it Organic, but if you can’t, the benefits still outweigh the risks.
*Drink alcohol sparingly!
*Engage in moderate to vigorous levels of exercise 30 min a day (even if you’re overweight, studies have shown that you will still benefit).
DO get a yearly mammogram starting at age 40!
DO monthly self breast examinations (you will know what is normal for you)
DO get yearly breast examinations by a physician.
DON’T smoke!!! If I can quit, you can too! It’s never too late to quit since lung tissue can heal itself. Smoking definitely increases the risk for breast cancer and is the known cause of 85% of lung and bronchial cancer. It is also a risk factor for almost every cancer in the book not to mention cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
AVOID toxins in and around your life – subject for another article!
REMEMBER, nothing in life is guaranteed, but the greater your general health, the better your chances are in surviving anything that hopefully won’t come your way.
Bio: Dr. Juena Suk currently works as a specialist in mammography and women’s sonography at Medical Imaging of Manhattan, a private practice, as well as independently from home. Thanks Juena for sharing this important information!