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Breast Cancer Prevention through Foods

Breast Cancer Prevention with Good Nutrition

Printed In Kilkenny Reporter & Waterford Mail Newspapers
Written by Ellen Roche Dieititan 29th October 2014

October is breast cancer awareness month.  Breast cancer is now the second most common cancer in Ireland and effects over 2,000 women every year. In this week’s Kilkenny Reporter, I review the latest scientific research to help ladies reduce their risk of developing breast cancer over a lifetime.

It is widely accepted that 50% of all cancers are preventable and 30% of cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes alone so let’s explore this a little further.


Whilst alcohol can offer some protection against heart disease, on the other hand alcohol consumption has been clearly linked with increased breast cancer rates.

Drinking any amount of any kind of alcohol increases a ladies risk of developing breast cancer.  If you choose to drink, limit to no more than one drink per day (one drink counts as one pub measure of spirits, half a pint of beer or cider or one small glass of wine).

Some types of breast cancer may be related to an interaction between low folic acid intake and alcohol consumption. Adequate folic acid intakes may mitigate the increased risk of breast cancer associated with high alcohol consumption, but the research to support this finding with folic acid remains inconclusive.  All ladies of child bearing age should be taking a folic acid supplement daily to prevent neural tube defects in newborn babies as per the department of health guidelines.


Body Shape

Over the past few years, there has been consistent research confirming the association between overweight and a number of cancers, including cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, colo-rectum, endometrium and kidney.  Excess body weight has been linked specifically with post-menopausal breast cancer also.  A number of large scale studies have shown that body shape is as important as the weight on the scales.

Ladies who are “apple shaped” i.e. carry more fat in the abdominal or tummy region fat, have a higher chance of developing cancers of the breast (postmenopausal) and endometrial cancer.

In addition, sedentary living is associated with an increased risk for weight gain, overweight and obesity, and subsequently increased cancer risk.  So ladies, if you need to shape up, now is the time to incorporate physical activity into your daily living and make more healthy food choice.

Cohort and case-control studies provide consistent evidence that lactation protects against pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancer. It is recommended that mothers aim to exclusively breastfeed their infants for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding with complementary feeding.

The Mediterranean Diet

In August of this year, researchers in Spain observed the incidence of breast cancer between Spanish women consuming a typical Mediterranean diet compared to a standard Western Diet (similar to the Irish eating habits).

The results confirmed the harmful effect of a Western diet on breast cancer risk. This study which was published in the British Journal of Cancer found new evidence on the benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, oily fish and vegetable oils for preventing all types of breast cancer and particularly triple-negative type tumors.

The anti-inflammatory effect of oily type fish and healthy oils (e.g. nuts, olive and rapeseed oil) offer protection, whereas unhealthy type fats found in foods such as biscuits and fried foods may have the opposite effect.

The nutrients such as vitamin C, folic acid, selenium and caroteinoids found in fruit and vegetables are thought to offer protection from breast cancer by preventing DNA  and cell damage.

Let’s paint the town pink for breast cancer awareness….

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