Nutrition can play a part in fending of breast cancer

Cancer-fighting foods

The statistics are sobering. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Canadian women, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. And yes, breast can occur in men.

Breast cancer will affect one in eight women in their lifetime. In 2022, 28,600 people were diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada and 25% of all new cancers are diagnosed as breast cancer, while 14% of all cancer deaths are due to breast cancer. One in 34 women will die of breast cancer in their lifetime.

With improved diagnosis and better treatment, the five-year survival rate of non-metastatic breast cancer is 91%. The 10-year survival rate is 84% and the 15-year survival rate is 80%.

The risk of dying from breast cancer was 14.4% in the early 1990s and by 2015, it decreased to 4.9%. Early diagnosis with better treatments leads to better outcomes.

Breast cancer self-exams are still recommended to identify any unusual asymmetry in the chest, dimpling or hardened lumps. Screening mammography is recommended every two to three years in postmenopausal females between the ages of 50 to 74 for women with average risk factors.

Ultrasound is usually recommended to identify only whether a spot is solid or cystic. Thermography that analyzes heat patterns in breast tissue is a non-conventional test that has not been accepted as a reliable diagnostic test by mainstream medicine.

Known risk factors include increased age, family history, BRCA gene mutation, post-menopause, hormone exposure—especially to exogenous estrogens—high alcohol intake, being overweight or obese and being sedentary with no physical activity. Other, less known risk factors include early onset of menstruation, late first birth or no children, late menopause onset and no breast feeding. Being taller increases your risk of breast cancer slightly, as does radiation and pesticide exposure. Diet can also play an important role in the development of breast cancer. And, yes, smoking is probably not good.

Certain Asian countries, like Japan and Thailand, as well as African countries such as Uganda and Zimbabwe have considerably fewer cases of breast cancer than North American and European countries. Researchers believe this is in part due to genetics and healthier dietary and lifestyle factors.

A healthier diet that decreases fats, especially saturated fats, decreases white sugar and refined foods, less white flour and processed grains, fewer dairy products, less or no alcohol, limited coffee and caffeine consumption, moderate consumption of meat and animal products and one rich in whole grains, cereals, beans and legumes and ample amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables is strongly recommended.

Cruciferous or cabbage family vegetables, including bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and others contain natural cancer fighting chemicals. These vegetables are rich in compounds like DIM or di-indole methane and I3C or indole 3 carbinol. DIM and I3C facilitate the breakdown of exogenous estrogens into less active forms that do not stimulate breast tissue. North American women typically consume fewer than 20 milligrams of these compounds per day from these vegetable sources. Asian women consume more than 100 milligrams per day.

Vitamin A-rich foods also have anti-cancer properties. Foods rich in vitamin A include orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, like carrots, yellow peppers, pumpkin and squash. Consuming foods rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene can lower your risk of developing cancers, including breast cancer.

Dark, green leafy vegetables, like brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, spinach and kale are rich in the B-vitamin folic acid. Folic acid is an important methyl donor in the body that plays an important role in detoxification of toxic compounds and chemicals. A diet rich in folic acid foods lowers can lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

Soybeans are rich in compounds called isoflavones. One of the main isoflavones found in soy is called genistein. Isolfavones like genestein interact and block estrogen receptors on breast tissue. They also inhibit enzymes that promote tumour growth. This is similar in mechanism of the drug Tamoxifen, which is used to treat breast cancer.

Asian women typically consume 35 grams of soybeans per day delivering the equivalent of 150 milligrams of isoflavones. North American women consume less than two grams of soy products per day delivering about four grams of isoflavones.

Some people argue soy contains exogenous estrogens and shouldn’t be consumed in breast cancer patients but most nutritional experts agree moderate consumption of soy products is fine in cases of breast cancer.

Diet and nutrition can play an important factor in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. A healthier diet with whole foods, dark green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables can help decrease your risk of developing breast cancer.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doug Lobay is a practicing naturopathic physician in Kelowna, British Columbia.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia in 1987 and then attended Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, where graduated with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine degree in 1991. While attending Bastyr College, he began to research the scientific basis of naturopathic medicine. 

He was surprised to find many of the current major medical journals abounded with scientific information on the use of diet, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

Doug is a member of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and has practiced as naturopathic family physician for more than 30 years.  He maintains a busy practice in Kelowna where he sees a wide age range of patients with various ailments.

He focuses on dietary modification, allergy testing, nutritional assessments, supplement recommendation for optimal health, various physical therapy modalities, various intravenous therapies including chelation therapy.

An avid writer, he has written seven books on various aspects of naturopathic medicine that are available on Amazon and was also a long-time medical contributor to the Townsend Letter journal for doctors and patients, where many of his articles are available to view on-line. He has also given numerous lectures, talks and has taught various courses on natural medicine.

Doug enjoys research, writing and teaching others about the virtues of natural health and good nutrition. When not working, he enjoys cycling, hiking, hockey, skiing, swimming, tennis and playing guitar.

If you have any further questions or comments, you can contact Dr. Lobay at 250-860-7622 or [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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