This year, an estimated 226,870 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those, close to 40,000 will die of the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk of the disease.
Genetic risk factors account for a mere 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases. Lifestyle factors, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and following a health diet can cut a woman’s risk of the disease by more than one-third.
“The single most important thing you can do to prevent breast cancer and other disease is to keep your immune system strong and healthy at all times,” explains HealthBarn USA founder Stacey Antine, M.S., R.D., author of Appetite For Life: The Thumbs Up, No Yuck Guide to Getting Your Kid To Be A Great Eater. “Nature has provided us with our biggest protection against disease: a bounty of foods packed with healthy nutrients. Stick with natural foods and stay healthy.”
Research suggests you can help to prevent breast cancer and stay healthy in the following ways:
Up Your Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C and E, lycopene, beta-carotene and other antioxidants may help protect cells from free radical damage, which scientists suspect is the root cause of all cancer. Antioxidants are plentiful in many foods including apples, avocados, all berries, black beans, cherries, plums, artichoke, potatoes, green tea, pomegranate, pumpkins, nuts, oats and dark chocolate—and are crucial for a strong immune system.
Eat More Folate: Foods naturally rich in folate — dark, leafy greens like spinach and collard greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits like oranges and strawberries, beans and peas, beets, carrots and squash — may offer protection against breast cancer, according to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study found premenopausal women who ate the greatest quantities of foods rich in folate had the lowest rates of breast cancer.
Opt For Organics: Conventionally grown foods are often treated with pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics, which some experts believe may cause cancer. Organic foods, while more expensive, may help to prevent cancer. If you can’t afford all organic fruits and vegetables, stick with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Plus list of foods to choose organic: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuces, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, greenbeans and kale. The group also offers a Clean 15 list of foods that are lowest in pesticides.
Chomp On Cruciferous Veggies: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, collard greens, arugala and radishes contain the phytochemicals isothiocyanates and indoles that appear to offer protection against breast and other cancers. In fact, a new study found an association between cruciferous vegetable intake during the first 36 months after breast cancer diagnosis and a reduced risk of cancer recurrence and mortality. How can you tell if a plant is cruciferous? Look for a cross: the stems of the exterior leaves intersect to resemble a cross.
Say No To GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms, also called Genetically Engineered Foods or Biotech Foods, have been scientifically altered at the DNA level to withstand herbicides, pesticides, drought or other farming issues. Until recently, GMO foods were presumed safe, although no long-term research was available. A new study sheds new light on the matter: Research published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found rats fed a diet of “Roundup ready” GMO corn had higher rates of tumors and mortality than those fed non GMO corn. In particular, female study rats developed large mammary tumors.
Avoid Factory-Farmed Meat: Consumption of red meat has been linked to breast and other cancers, likely due to its saturated fat content. Conventionally raised cows are also treated with hormones and antibiotics, and fed an unnatural diet of grains, corns and even candy. Unless otherwise labeled, this is the meat you will find at at the grocery store. Pastured meat and dairy from cows fed their natural diet of grass is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in Omega-3 fatty acids than commecial beef, which means grassfed meat is better for you. In addition, grassfed meat, eggs and dairy are richer in cancer fighting antioxidants, like vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs, all reasons to include it in a cancer-preventive diet. In New Jersey, pastured beef is raised locally at Aspen Ridge Farm in Oxford, 7th Heaven Farm in Tabernacle, Beachtree Farm in Hopewell, Burningheart Farm in Hackettstown, Howling Wolf Farm in Blairstown, the Jennings Farm in Medford, Plaid Piper Farm in Branchville, Simply Grazin’ in Skillman and the Totten Family Farm in Long Valley.
Limit Alcohol: Multiple studies have shown the link between drinking alcohol and breast cancer. New research presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology convention earlier this year pinpoints the precise mechanism. A protein in mammary epithelial cells, known as CYP2E1, reacts with ethanol in alcoholic beverages to produce free-radicals, oxidative stress and cellular mechanisms that increase proliferation — all hallmarks of cancer. If you drink alcohol, limit it to one glass a day.