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Diet and Breast Cancer Risk

Posted 9/14/2014

Posted in

  I have said it a thousand times before, and I will say it a thousand times again. What you ate (or didn't eat) did not cause breast cancer. While we are at it, stress did not cause it either.

  I am well aware that there are countless popular publications and websites and speakers who insist that fat or red meat or sugar cause cancer, and that eliminating them for one's diet will prevent it. Then there are all the supplements for sale (and guess who is reaping those profits) that promise the same things--along with the even snarkier promise that this tea or that mineral or that special combination tablet will cure cancer. Not true. None of it.

  What we know about diet and cancer is limited and can be summed up by saying something along the lines of this: A healthy diet, replete with fruits and vegetables and whole grains and limited red meat, is good for you anyway and may reduce cancer risk. Note the "may".

  I was pretty skeptical when I saw this posting from Nutrition Action;something called "How to Diet to Prevent Breast Cancer" is completely misleading and unproven. However, the short article does not promise anything like prevention or cure, makes sound suggestions, and provides a number of links. Here is the start:

How to Diet to Prevent Breast Cancer
Posted By Bonnie Liebman On September 1, 2014 @ 5:00 am In How to Diet | No Comments

Fruits & vegetables. “Several studies have reported that women who consume more fruits and vegetables, especially ones that are rich in carotenoids like beta-carotene, have a reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, especially for estrogen-receptor negative disease,” says Regina Ziegler, senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute.

“And any lifestyle change that reduces the risk of estrogen-negative breast cancer would be really, really good.” That’s because researchers know less about tumors that aren’t fueled by estrogen.

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“Estrogen-negative breast cancer is more lethal that estrogen-positive cancer, and less is known about preventing it, so that makes this finding especially interesting,” says Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Fruits and vegetables have a pretty small impact overall on cancer, but this is one case where there may be some benefit.”

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Vitamin D. Earlier evidence had suggested that women with higher blood levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of breast cancer, but the picture is muddy.

“We’re now analyzing vitamin D levels for 24,000 women from 17 cohorts around the world,” says Ziegler. “That should tell us whether the blood levels that people currently attain from sunlight, food, and supplements protect against breast cancer.”

Meanwhile, the VITAL trial is testing whether women who take 2,000 IU a day of vitamin D for several years are less likely to get breast cancer than placebo takers. “That should tell us whether high doses reduce risk,” notes Ziegler.


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