The Food That May Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may lower women’s risk for a tough-to-treat form of breast cancer, but it does not reduce their odds of getting breast cancer overall, a new study finds.
Specifically, the new study found lower rates of what’s known as “estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer” among women who ate high amounts of fruits and vegetables.
These tumors — which do not respond to circulating estrogen — account for 15 percent to 20 percent of breast cancers, and have a lower survival rate than other types of breast cancer.
According to a team led by Seungyoun Jung, formerly at the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, previous research has suggested that consuming higher amounts of fruits and vegetables might lower breast cancer risk, but there haven’t been enough data to prove it.
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In their new investigation, Jung’s team analyzed data from 20 prior studies of women who were followed for a maximum of 11 to 20 years.
They found a statistically significant link between higher fruit and vegetable consumption and a lower risk for estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, but not with a lower risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers (those that do respond to estrogen) or for breast cancer overall.
The lower risk for estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer was mostly associated with higher intake of vegetables, Jung’s team noted in a journal news release.
Two breast cancer experts responded to the findings with caution, noting that a cause-and-effect relationship is far from certain.
“It is plausible that estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer is influenced by nutritional factors,” said Dr. Paolo Boffetta, director of the Institute for Translation Epidemiology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, in New York City.
“However, eating fruits and vegetables is closely tied to environmental factors and healthy lifestyle, such as weight control, physical activity and other healthy eating habits,” he noted. “Since these are so closely tied together, it is difficult to disentangle the specific effect of fruits and vegetables.”
And Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed.
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“The study fails to control for some bias that may occur when observing the two populations,” she said. “Perhaps the women that eat well also exercise, drink little alcohol, don’t smoke and eat less animal fats overall.”
Still, living healthily is always a good idea, and “the study does add some evidence that a healthy lifestyle can perhaps help decrease the risk of breast cancer,” Bernik said.
The study was published Jan. 24 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Immunity-Boosting Foods You Should Be Eating
Whether it’s cold out, or the whether the weather is transitioning from cooler to warmer temperatures, dietitians point to a significant defense weapon in preventing colds and the flu.
Immune-boosting foods can improve your ability to ward off the flu and other health problems, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“A strong immune system doesn’t guarantee your body can fight off every flu bug, but it is a powerful defense,” said registered dietician Heather Mangieri in an academy news release. “Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune response.”
The following overview of foods may boost the immune system:
- Protein is an essential part of your body’s defense system. Sources of protein include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Vitamin A helps prevent infections by keeping the skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, lungs and intestines healthy. This nutrient, found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach and red bell peppers, also helps the body regulate the immune system.
- Vitamin C triggers the production of immune-boosting antibodies. Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries and tangerines are among the foods rich in vitamin C.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may provide a boost to the immune system. People who want to get more vitamin E in their diet should eat sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower or safflower oil, hazelnuts, peanut butter or spinach.
- Zinc, a nutrient found in lean beef, wheat germ, crab, wheat bran, sunflower seeds, black-eyed peas, almonds, milk and tofu, may also improve functioning of the immune system.
If you’re unsure about what foods to eat to boost your immune system, a registered dietitian can help. They can help ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to function and protect itself.