Which foods are best for breast cancer survivors?
The good news is that after two decades of breast cancer being on the rise, numbers have been declining in recent years. Still, Black women in the United States have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime, so it’s very important for breast cancer survivors to know how to increase their life expectancy.
Not all oncologists embrace the link between nutrition and longevity, citing insufficient evidence. But doctors who specialize in nutrition say there are certain foods women can include in an overall healthy diet to increase their chance of survival.
Dr. Barry Boyd, creator of the integrative medicine program at Greenwich Hospital-Yale Health Systems and director of nutritional oncology, says women should no longer be afraid to consume soy.
“It was feared that components of soy had estrogen-like properties that influenced the growth of breast cancer cells,” Boyd said. “Science has not only proved an absence of risk, there’s also a possible benefit.”
Boyd points to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that explored soy intake in the United States and China among 9,500 women after breast cancer diagnosis. The consumption of isoflavones, commonly found in soybeans, produced a “statistically significant reduced risk of recurrence” among breast cancer survivors diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, according to researchers.
A study released this year by the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention produced similar results. In this analysis, more than 11,000 breast cancer patients were studied. Researchers concluded that eating soy after diagnosis was associated with a reduced mortality risk and fewer recurrences of the disease.
The American Cancer Society is more cautious in its recommendations, noting that while soy is good source of alternative protein, “women with breast cancer should take in only moderate amounts” and not ingest soy-containing pills, powders or supplements containing high amounts of isoflavones.
Kale & Sweet Potatoes
Eating foods rich in carotenoids has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence. Carotenoids are the natural pigments found in yellow and orange foods (such as carrots, sweet potatoes and squash) and dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and Swiss chard.