We all know that cancer isn’t caused by any one factor. Instead, a collection of influences — genetics, environmental exposure, lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, BMI and stress and, frankly, serendipity — create a perfect storm that can lead to the disease. And while there’s not much you can do about the genes you inherit or the toxicants you’ve already been exposed to, there absolutely is something you can do about how you lead your life now. According to the latest research, genetic predisposition plays a role in only about 10 percent of breast cancers. Meanwhile, diet is a factor in an estimated 30 to 40 percent, according to the outreach organization breastcancer.org. And together, the elements of a healthful lifestyle can reduce cancer risk by as much as 38 percent.
So this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take a moment to evaluate how well your diet is working for your future health. Need some tips on what to eat? Try these superfoods, all considered possibly preventive by nutritionists with expertise in cancer. And if you’re a breast cancer survivor already, don’t forget to check out HuffPost Healthy Living blogger Dr. Nalini Chilkov ‘s review of diet advice for survivors.
Broccoli And Broccoli Sprouts
Cruciferous vegetables, but broccoli in particular, make for anti-cancer powerhouses thanks in part to a compound called sulforaphane that actually helps the body fight the spread of tumors.
Recent research revealed the underlying reason: sulforaphane may inhibit an enzyme, called an HDAC, that a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/broccoli-cancer-sulforaphane_n_1310634.html”works to suppress the body’s tumor fighting ability/a, as we’ve previously reported.
And sprouts are even more potent: three-day old broccoli sprouts have 20 to 50 times the sulforaphanes as mature broccoli, a href=”http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/1997/sept/970903.htm”according to Johns Hopkins research/a.
For more about the cancer fighting properties of emall cruciferous vegetables, check HuffPost blogger Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/cancer-prevention_b_1624965.html”analysis of cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy and more/a.
Garlic is considered a cancer-fighting food for several forms of the disease, a href=”http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/garlic-and-cancer-prevention#r12″according to the National Cancer Institute/a.
One French study found that women who regularly ate garlic had a href=”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9928867″a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer/a. Garlic’s mild cousin, onions also had a protective effect, according to the study.
Pomegranates are known for their anti-cancer properties, thanks to a richness in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, polyphenols. But they may offer a specific benefit against breast cancer: research shows that a phytochemical found in abundance in pomegranates, called ellagitannins, interfere in the production of aromatase, an enzyme that, as HuffPost blogger Dr. Nalini Chilkov explained, “a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nalini-chilkov/pomegranates-cancer-fighting-_b_1078343.html”increases hormone production in breast tissue/a.”
That’s important because breast cancer is hormone-dependent, meaning that it feeds off of hormones like estrogen to grow and spread.
“Hormone dependent cancers such as breast cancer are commonly treated with aromatase inhibitors, which block this enzyme,” wrote Chilkov.
Although preliminary, research in mice has found that a href=”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901163921.htm”including walnuts in a healthful diet throughout the entire lifespan/a reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by emhalf/em.
Curcumin, the compound in tumeric, may play a role in blocking the expression of a molecule called RANKL, a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nalini-chilkov/turmeric-health-benefits-_b_828856.html”which is found in the most deadly and aggressive breast cancer tumor cells/a.
Most research regarding flax’s anti-cancer properties has been done in mice or in-vitro cell cultures, but what it shows could be profound: in one study, according to the American Cancer Society, a href=”http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/flaxseed”the lignans found in flax slowed the movement and “stickiness” of breast cancer cells/a, causing it to spread more slowly in a cell culture simulation.
Berries have several powerful antioxidants, primarily anthocyanins and ellagic acid, which have been shown in cell culture studies to a href=”http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/blueberries.html#research”reduce free radical damage to healthy cells/a, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. In separate research, they were shown to slow the growth and shorten the lifespan of breast cancer (as well as mouth, colon and prostate cancer) cells.
Green tea is rich in the polyphenol EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which has been shown to slow the spread of breast cancer cells, a href=”http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/supplements/known/green_tea”according to breastcancer.org/a.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is thought to a href=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39726407/ns/health-cancer/t/what-you-should-eat-avoid-beat-breast-cancer/#.UHNMJvmMG5M”slow breast cancer cell growth/a.