- A diet high in pro-inflammatory foods, such as red and processed meats, sugar and saturated fats, can potentially increase the risk of breast cancer, while diets rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, fiber-rich grains, and unsaturated fats can potentially decrease this risk.
- Plant-based diets and the Mediterranean diet, which are high in plant foods and limit sugar, refined grains, and red meat, have shown to possibly lower the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Obesity increases the risk of various cancers, but dietary habits have shown to impact cancer risk beyond their effects on weight.
- Diet, limited alcohol consumption, regular exercise (150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity like brisk walking each week), and maintaining a healthy weight are all important factors in potentially reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Women who consume diets fostering inflammation may face an increased risk of breast cancer, according to initial research findings.
Eating Habits and Breast Cancer Risk
The research, which involved monitoring over 350,000 women, deduced that the higher the consumption of “pro-inflammatory” foods, the more elevated the risk of breast cancer. Generally, these are foods believed to exacerbate chronic, low-level inflammation in the body, potentially leading to various diseases.
While the findings neither confirm nor refute a cause-and-effect relationship, they reinforce the theory that diet can influence the chances of developing breast cancer.
The Characteristics of a Pro-Inflammatory Diet
A diet prompting inflammation often includes the usual culprits. Foods such as red and processed meats, sugar and saturated fats are typically at the forefront, says Carlota Castro-Espin, the leading researcher for the study. Such a diet may heighten the risk of breast cancer due to the promotion of inflammation and a lack of inflammation-combating foods.
Anti-inflammatory foods are pretty common and include fruits, vegetables, beans, fiber-rich grains, and unsaturated fats. Therefore, the findings align with generally given advice on healthy eating.
Current Trends in Dietary Research
Past studies have established links between dietary habits and an increased risk of several cancers, including breast cancer. Some data suggest that meal plans emphasizing plant foods and minimizing animal products and processed carbohydrates seem to lower the chances of developing breast cancer later in life.
One particular clinical trial highlighted the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet. Women following the diet (supplemented with olive oil) were less likely to develop breast cancer compared to those encouraged to lower their fat intake.
A Mediterranean diet shares many characteristics with an anti-inflammatory one since it includes plenty of fish, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and limits red meat and processed food intake.
No specific diet guarantees a reduced cancer risk. However, following a healthy eating pattern centered on plant foods and limiting sugar, refined grains, and red meat is generally recommended.
Tackling Obesity and Promoting Regular Exercise
Diet greatly influences body weight, and obesity reportedly increases the risk of various cancers. However, studies indicate that dietary habits impact cancer risk beyond their effects on weight.
Inflammation may be one such direct link. The study assigned each woman a score based on the inflammatory potential of her diet, calculated according to the nutrients and other compounds in the foods she reported consuming.
Over about 15 years, more than 13,200 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. The risk was 12% higher among the one-fifth of women with the most inflammatory diets, compared to the one-fifth consuming the least pro-inflammatory foods.
The correlation was more potent among women who developed cancer before menopause. The link remained noteworthy even after accounting for other factors like body weight, drinking habits, and exercise.
It is also advised to limit alcohol consumption, remain active, and maintain a healthy weight. Recommended activities include at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, each week.
The American Cancer Society provides more insights into diet and cancer risk.
Sources: Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, Carlota Castro-Espin (PhD student, Catalan Institute of Oncology), Marjorie McCullough (ScD, RD, senior scientific director of epidemiology research, American Cancer Society)