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Prevent Breast Cancer With A Healthy Diet

Updated on October 16, 2013
Lily Rose profile image

Diagnosed with breast cancer at 37, BRCA2+, double mastectomy, chemo, radiation, mom to 2 - I've been to hell and back & am an open book.

Dietary habits can play a huge role in the prevention of breast cancer, according to scientific research. Women worldwide should take the following information to try to make life-changing choices for themselves and their families.

Breast cancer kills nearly 400,000 women each year; it’s the second most common cancer in the world! The lifetime breast cancer rate is nearing 1 in 7 American women. This trend goes well beyond the United States. For example, breast cancer incidence in Taiwan has tripled in the past two decades, and like in the U.S., the age at diagnosis continues to drop. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006, the westernization of their lifestyles may be a contributing factor.

The China Study

Research has certainly shown that diet has a major impact on not only the development, but on the progression, of breast cancer. Much of this data comes from studies of Asian women. The China Oxford Cornell Diet and Health Project found extremely strong associations between the increase of degenerative diseases in China and the transition from the traditional plant-based Asian diet to a more Western diet of meat, dairy and fat. This China Project is the world’s most comprehensive study of diet, lifestyle and disease that has ever been conducted.

The study also noted that people who move from low-risk countries gradually take on the disease risk rates of their new home country – the opposite is also true.

Breast cancer is rare in Japan – about ¼ the rate of American women – yet the Japanese women who immigrate to the United States get diagnosed with breast cancer at almost the same rate as American women.

In a way, this is good news, because it reinforces that diet and lifestyle changes play a large part in being able to stop these cancer genes from expressing themselves. 

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Another study, the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, also pointed out that there was increased risk of cancer incidence with increased exposure to the western diet. Breast cancer, like many other cancers, is associated with increased fat in the diet. Your food choices can dramatically increase, or decease, your risk for breast cancer.

On a high-fat diet, estradiol, the breast cancer promoting hormone, increases. On a low-fat diet, the opposite occurs. Many dangerous compounds from sources such as pesticides, bleached paper products, plastic food containers, and bovine growth hormones are lipophilic, meaning that they love fat – they live in fat and they don’t metabolize out of fat. A high-fat diet promotes the storage of these synthetic chemicals that mimic estrogen activity in breast tissue, so if a woman has a lot of fatty tissue on her body, she will store a lot of these dangerous compounds.

There are different breast cancer risks among the different types of fats. Saturated, mostly animal, source fats are associated with the highest risk for all cancers, while plant-source fats (unsaturated) have a more protective effect. There are risks with unsaturated fats, also – omega-3 fats help to improve immunity, while too many omega-6 fats can act to suppress your immune function. Omega-6 is found in soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and cottonseed oil (just to mention a few). Research has shown that regular consumption of these fats greatly increased breast cancer risk.

Unsaturated fats:

Sunflower oil 
Wild fish 
Safflower oil 
Sea vegetables 
Soybean oil 
Corn oil
Free-range poultry
Cottonseed oil
Free-range eggs
Sesame oil
Peanut oil
Pumpkin seeds
Examples of foods that contain Omega-3 unsaturated fats
Examples of foods that contain Omega-3 unsaturated fats
Omega-6 oils
Omega-6 oils

Interesting point: Before the Berlin Wall came down, East Germany suffered dairy shortages – and shortages of breast cancer, while West Germany had plentiful dairy consumption – and plentiful rates of breast cancer.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are dangerous compounds that are involved in the aging and cancer-forming processes of cells. When fats are exposed to air, light, or heat they break down quickly – they oxidize, become rancid, and produce these dangerous free radicals. Many food manufacturers add hydrogen to the omega-6 plant oils to make them solid at room temperature. This process produces cancer-causing transfats. A study of 700 post-menopausal women conducted in Europe revealed that there was a 40% increased risk of breast cancer among the women who eat a lot of hydrogenated fats in fried foods, margarine and/or baked goods.

There are many more things that can and are contributing factors for increased risk of breast cancer, such as high amounts of animal protein and dairy products. Additionally, alcohol intake and high sugar intake in women over 45 is associated with a major risk factor for breast cancer; the caffeine family is also a contributor. Some surgeons restricting the caffeine family prior to biopsy have actually seen breast lumps shrink or even disappear within weeks!

The Good News!

The good news is that a diet low in fat and plant-based can help reduce your risk of breast cancer significantly.  Low in fat doesn’t mean “no” fat – focus on the good fats, the omega-3s, which have been shown to improve immune function.  A plant-based diet contains a lot of fiber and studies have shown that women who eat a high fiber diet have much lower rates of breast cancer.  High amounts of fiber can reduce estrogen levels by trapping the hormones, binding them up and escorting out of the body.  So, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, legumes and sea vegetables.

Other foods that help protect against cancer include carotenes, found in orange, red, yellow, green and purple fruits and vegetables.  Carotenes also neutralize free radicals and protect your cell DNA.  Drinking extracted vegetable juices is a great way to increase your carotene consumption. 

tomatoes - a great source of healthy lycopene
tomatoes - a great source of healthy lycopene

Other Protective Foods

Lycopene - found in tomatoes - has been shown to lower the incidence of breast cancer among women who eat the most tomatoes. Cruciferous vegetables are another powerful food group that helps the liver to neutralize dangerous, disease-promoting forms of estrogen into safe forms of estrogen. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale – notice something in common here? Yes – all green!

Another protective food is flaxseeds (rich in omega-3.) The natural fibers in flax help to bind up estrogen and improve your bowel’s function – both of these things help protect against breast cancer.

Also worth mentioning is garlic; lower rates of cancer has been associated with garlic-consuming populations. Aged garlic extract has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, mostly by increasing natural killer cell activity.

Breast Cancer Diet Summary:


Animal Fats                                            Healthy Fats

      Red meat                                                 Flaxseeds

      Fried foods                                              Wild fish

      Milk products                                           Olive oil

                                                                      Raw Walnuts

Omega-6 Oils                                               Raw pumpkin seeds

      Corn oil

      Cottonseed oil                                   Cruciferous Vegetables

      Soybean oil                                             Cabbage


Hydrogenated Fats                                     Broccoli

      Margarine                                                Cauliflower

      Transfats                                                 Brussels sprouts

Alcoholic Beverages                            Garlic


      Wine                                                  Green Tea (organic)

      Mixed drinks


Caffeine Family                                           Whole grains

      Coffee                                                      Fresh fruits

      Tea                                                          Fresh vegetables

      Colas                                                       Beans

      Orange soda                                            Legumes

      Mountain dew                                           Raw seeds & nuts

      Peanuts                                                    Sea vegetables

      Hard cheese

      Chocolate                                           Soy (fermented)

Sugar/Artificial Sweeteners                 Shitake



In closing, I'd like to say that I am not a doctor or nutritionist. I am a 1-year breast cancer survivor who has put a lot of time and energy into researching many different topics related to breast cancer and healthy diets. I enjoy summarizing the information that I learn along the way and "putting it out there" to help educate anyone interested in this type of information. If you have concerns or medical questions, of course, please consult your physician.

breast cancer awareness ribbon
breast cancer awareness ribbon


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    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      6 years ago from A Coast

      A full time job for sure - you couldn't have said it better! It's unfortunate, the lack of knowledge shared - or even known - by our doctors on one hand, but on the other no one can possibly be excpected to "know it all". Thus the existence of the word: research! Thanks for your comment and be well.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      After going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer I've learned that diet has an enormous impact on health and was fascinated by the China Study. Surprisingly doctors rarely bring this up and I've done so much of my own research and learned from trial and error the importance of changing not only diet but household cleaning products and cosmetics. It's almost like a full time job!

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      Thank you for the great comment, pinkboxer, and congrats on your one year! I only recently completed my first year of being cancer-free! I'm actually going tonight to get my first real haircut since losing it all to chemo - I'm nervous and excited all at the same time...

    • pinkboxer profile image


      8 years ago from Louisiana

      Lily Rose, I just found your fantastic hub! As I approach my first year as a breast cancer survivor, I know for a fact that my healthy diet has been a factor in my ongoing battle to prevent the further spread of those renegade cells. Thank you for standing your ground with your comments. Breast cancer survivors are not to be messed with! lol. Early detection is key. I would not be here today if I had not had my annual mammogram.

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      Soni - thank you so much for your wonderful words, that means a lot to me. Being a breast cancer survivor, every word I have written that has anything to do with health and, in particular, cancer is to try and help others. If it reaches only one person and can help them, I'm happy! Thanks again, Soni - and thanks for the links!

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 

      8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Lily Rose, your hub is so good that I not only bookmarked it but I have sent a link of this hub to all my social networks, emailed it, and shared it on google SMS CHANNEL especially for my Indian friends. Thank you so much Lily for writing such a useful hub for preventing breast cancer with healthy diet. Plus thanks for that pleasant smile.

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      Thank you, Sandy! I hope you are doing well. Good for you with the diet change. Juicing is really terrific and something that has been on my to do list for a while now!

    • profile image

      Sandy Mc 

      8 years ago

      Your article is very informative. Since my cancer, I have been trying to do a better job on my diet. Have been eating more vegetables and even started juicing. I found some interesting things, such as safflower oil info. I recently bought safflower, because I read that it was better than other oils including olive oil that we had been using. Very informative. Your research and writing very well done.

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      How dare you say that I caused my cancer! You're just retaliating because of what I said to you. If you had been that doctor that told me my lump moved too much to be a tumor and I listened and didn't bother with a mammogram, that doctor may as well have killed me.

      By the way, a BRCA2 mutation caused my cancer; mine was hereditary. I did nothing to cause it - unless you think the addiction I had to Cheetos when I was 12 caused it - hmmm.....

      Please, Richard, just go away. I will delete any further comments from you.

    • richardheft profile image


      8 years ago from Stratford, CT

      I find your comment offensive and born out of anger. You need to watch your anger before it destroys your health and intution any further. Cancerous tumors are generally fixed and do not move unlike fluid cysts. That is a medical definition, but I also said that you should get it checked by a doctor. I do not deserve this type of statement "It's people like you who get people killed" I or my article did not cause your cancer. You did.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Well said! I am so glad that you are a survivor and have able to tell your story.

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      @richardheft - I can't even finish reading what you wrote because so many emotions have boiled up in me right now from what you said early on!

      First of all, you obviously did not read my entire hub because in the section at the end wherein I list things to eliminate there's a whole section titled "Caffeine Family."

      Secondly - you cannot make general statements like "most lumps are harmless cysts" and "Breast cancer is a firm, immovable cancerous lump, tumor." It's people like you that get people killed!

      When I felt the lump in my breast while showering, I went to see my doctor. I was told that bacause I was so young (37) it was probably just a cyst and to not worry about it. When she felt it, she then reinforced what she had previously said by saying "oh, it moves too much to be a tumor, I'm sure it's just a cyst, but let's get you in for a mammogram anyway."

      Because she put me at ease with her comments, I was not in a huge rush to get that mammogram - I TRUSTED her when she said it "moved too much to be a tumor." Thank God I actually scheduled the mammogram a month later because it turned out to be invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3 (fast growing, aggressive), stage 2 - ultimately we found out that it had gone into 1 lymph node as well.

      Had I really listened to her stupid words and not scheduled that mammogram, or waited longer before scheduling it, I could be dead right now!

      So I say now to you, my acupuncture doctor, DON'T YOU DARE TELL PEOPLE THAT CANCER TUMORS DON'T MOVE - MINE DID!!!!

      Oh my, I must leave now because I feel my blood pressure has risen quite high. I should have just deleted your stupid comment, but I want people to know that it's NOT TRUE that cancer tumors don't move. Of course, some don't, but you cannot assume because a lump moves it's not a tumor!

    • richardheft profile image


      8 years ago from Stratford, CT

      It's good article. You gave a lot of good information. What you left out was coffee, caffeine, a known breast irritant. If you want to protect your breats, give up caffeine and be careful of too much chocolate. I was a licensed Acupuncture Physician and Nutritional Counselor (FL 1992- 2002). Here's some additional information on the breasts.

      lumps, cancer and diet in general. It's from my book Hot and Cold Health and Disease.

      Most breast lumps are harmless cysts. Cysts (abnormal fluid filled sacs, common in the breasts) come and go, but can harden over time. They are not cancerous, as they contain no protein or fat, unlike tumors, which are blood rich, high protein, fat. Breast cancer is a firm, immovable cancerous lump, tumor. It attacks one in eight women, generally over the age of forty and is usually pain free. Lumps that do not move may also be caused by normal fibrocystic changes during the menstrual cycle and or estrogen (building hormone promotes cellular growth in the breasts and reproductive organs) supplements.

      Digestion heats and dries the body, especially the lungs, chest (heat rises). The lungs are naturally moist (water, mucous). Moisture, water facilitates the exchange of gases. Too much or too little water reduces the exchange, disturbing the breath. Weak digestion tends to cool and moisten the body, lungs, breasts, etc. with excess fluids in the same way the coldness of night and winter cools, hardens water in the air into the morning dew, rain, snow and ice. In the body, colder temperatures harden water in the lungs, sinuses, breasts, etc. into mucous, phlegm, cysts, lumps, etc.

      Long-term low protein, low fat (milk, yogurt, ice cream) and high carbohydrate (salads, tropical fruits, juices, smoothies, cold drinks) diets weaken digestion, cool and dampen the body (Chapter 7, Spleen). The middle diet, meal plan adjusted accordingly is recommended. Cooked foods and spices help eliminate excess moisture, as does a decrease in cold, damp foods.

      Breast cancer, like most cancers, comes in the form of a tumor. All tumors are blood, protein and fat rich. Protein and fat build and fuel all structure, function, including tumors, cancer. No one has ever developed cancer from eating too many fruits, vegetables and grains. Incidences of cancer (colon and prostate) are highest in America, Argentina and other countries that tend to eat high protein, high fat diets. Cancer is a disorder of unrestrained cellular growth. Estrogen supplements, high protein, high fat, processed foods, smoking and stimulant drugs feed and accelerate the growth of cancer. Early menstruation prior to age ten or menopause after age fifty-five can also be a cause. Avoid caffeine, as it is a known breast irritant. The colder middle diet is recommended.

      While there is "no cure for cancer", some people have cured. Everything builds up and breaks down. Cancer in tumor form can be starved, broken down via low protein, low fat (vegetarian), cooked and raw vegetables, spices, fruit and herbs. Essiac tea may help; however, its success is dependent on dietary discipline, weight, etc. Check with your doctor before making any changes.

      Most lumps although harmless and normal should be checked, monitored via physical examination. A yellow, bloody or clear discharge from the nipple generally indicates cancer of the breast.

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      Thanks, Money, and congrats to you, too!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Great info Lily Rose! I love the Auntie Oxidant picture. LOL! I think it will stick in my mind for a while. And you have an excellent list of foods to eliminate and foods to increase. Thanks for sharing and congrats on being selected as a contender in the 2nd week's best hub contest. :)

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      Why thank you, Patty!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thumbs Up!

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      @ Sage - thank you for visiting and I'm glad to hear that you're more on the plus side than negative. We all have room for improvement, right? Thanks again!

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      Thanks for your comments, Rose Mary. You make good points and your questions at the end are very valid; makes me wonder, for sure!

    • rmcrayne profile image


      8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Excellent information LR! And chock full!

      Just as important as what to eat, is what to avoid. I’m glad your summary highlighted caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweetners, all of which deplete the immune system. Nice mention of fermented foods (soy in this case). Fermented foods help make the body more alkali, therefore less acidic and less hospitable to disease.

      It’s a great thing to consume more foods that help us fight disease, but a pity we can’t do a better job to “just say no” in the first place to toxins, additives, preservatives, hormones and worlds of other chemicals in our food and beverage supply.

      How much of the problem is increased fats in the western diet vs increased hormones in animal protein and fat? And what part is exposure to western diet vs exposure to western medicine? As a veteran, I’ve known many Asian women. Most of them still largely embrace the diets of their heritage. But now they use Western Medicine, and prescription meds, because it’s free, and alternative medicine, such as TCM costs money.

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 

      8 years ago

      Lily - you did an awesome job writing this hub and a lot of really great research. I found it really interesting, especially the what to eliminate and what to include section for your diet. It looks like my diet is more on the plus side than the negative, but still has room to improve.

      I congratulate you on your one year of survivor ship and your continuation in research to help others.

      Great Job! Rate up!


    • coletta7 profile image


      8 years ago from cleveland hts.

      Very helpful and informing, thank you!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      You show me something important to prevent the cancer. The deadly disease. This is very informative and useful for us. I think we should know about this. Better prevent than healing. Good work. I'll bookmark this one.

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      B-Pop - If only!

      Thanks for all the great comments!

    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting hub, that should be required reading for all women.

    • tmoya profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Nicely done! Well presented!! Love it!!

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      Thanks for your comment, detoxexpert! I've heard it all and a lot of what you mention is cited in the China Study. I don't know what it will take to change our western diet habits; I don't know if it's even possible - that's sad. I'll be sure to check out your hub!

    • detoxexpert profile image


      8 years ago from oxfordshire

      Really interesting Hub. I read a report on this subject (sadly I can't remember where otherwise I would have posted the link), but in essence it was a study of Asian v Western diet. The conclusion was that the amount of dairy product consumed in the West was a major cause of breast cancer. It claimed that Asian diet was totally void of dairy and the incidence of the disease was 99.9% lower in Asia. It also found that Asian women living in the West and eating a Western dairy based diet succombed on second generation by the same rates as Western women.

      A case of breast cancer cure was also citred by totally removing dairy from the diet. To be fair this was not really substantiated though.

      I also notice you mention hydrogentation, check out our hub on Trans Fat Dangers...Trans Fats being, of course, the deadly result of hydrogenation!

    • Lily Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Lily Rose 

      8 years ago from A Coast

      My pleasure, Hello, hello! This helpul health hubs contest sure did motivate me!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank youfor a great, informative hub.


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