- About Breast Cancer
- Reduce Your Risk
- Our Research
- Get Involved
- About Us
2 years ago
Modern medicine has tended to recommend a pill for every ill, however there is a growing movement within the medical profession, and supported by research, that food may have the power to prevent the most serious of conditions including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
We all know that prevention is better than the cure. Our friends at Viridian Nutrition have highlighted evidence that shows how modifications to diet and lifestyle can positively affect an individual’s health.
Breast cancer is an increasing concern, since the 1990s incidence rates have risen by approximately 19% in the UK, with mortality exceeding 11,433 in 2014, 99% female (Cancer Research UK). There are many risk factors associated with breast cancer including genetics, environmental factors, endocrine hormones and menopausal status. Whilst most of these factors are largely unchangeable, research is lately identifying a relationship between the risk of developing breast cancer, and an individual’s diet, with the hope of finding an adjustable lifestyle component that could help reduce risk of developing the disease.
It is thought that the Westernised diet, which is infamously rich in dairy, processed meats and refined sugars, could play a role in the development of cancer risk. However, evidence for an association with breast cancer still remains inconclusive. On the other hand, epidemiological studies have identified a risk-reducing effect for those following a healthy balanced diet, specifically the Mediterranean diet.
Following a Mediterranean diet
A 2014 observational study, found that following a Westernised diet, correlated with a higher risk of developing or progressing breast cancer. In contrast, individuals in the higher quartile of Mediterranean diet adherence had a 56% lower risk, compared to those in the lower adherence category, and this protective effect was stronger for triple negative tumours (68%) (1).
Traditionally, the Mediterranean diet comprises high quality fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil, legumes, nuts and seeds and garlic. With moderate intake of alcohol (wine), and little-to-no red meat or dairy consumption. These diet choices provide a favourable balance of fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Recent control trials have put the diet to the test. In 2015, a Spanish intervention investigated the effects of women following either a Mediterranean diet supplemented with additional extra virgin olive oil, Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a control low fat diet (2).
This long-term randomised trial (over four years) found that:
The study observed that a higher consumption of extra virgin oil (> 15% of total energy intake) could be instrumental for obtaining this significant protection. Olive oil contains high levels of polyphenols which have been shown in other research to offer powerful antioxidant properties.
Additional research has focused on the influence the Mediterranean diet has on breast cancer reoccurrence. After a three year follow up, women who had previously been treated for early breast cancer and were following a Mediterranean diet compared to their standard diet, were significantly less likely to relapse. Eleven patients from the standard diet group had a breast cancer recurrence during the study, whilst there were no new cases of breast cancer in the Mediterranean diet group[iii].
The case for a Mediterranean diet
The European Prospective Investigation in to Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study concluded that a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, with a greater reduction in hormone receptor-negative tumours. The diet provides an abundance of plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C and E, which play an important role in neutralising free radicals and preventing DNA damage(4).
With evidence suggesting that our diet could be a modifiable risk factor for the development of cancer, it is important to change eating habits towards a healthier outlook. Some easy take away tips:
Author: Katie Bell, MSc BSc, nutritionist and biochemist, is a Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition.
Viridian Nutrition is the leading supplier of food supplements to specialist independent health food stores, www.viridian-nutrition.com. For information about personalised solutions visit www.findahealthstore.com
1. Castelló, A et al. “Spanish Mediterranean Diet And Other Dietary Patterns And Breast Cancer Risk: Case–Control Epigeicam Study.” British Journal of Cancer 111.7 (2014): 1454-1462. Web.
2. Toledo, Estefanía et al. “Mediterranean Diet And Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women At High Cardiovascular Risk In The PREDIMED Trial.” JAMA Internal Medicine 175.11 (2015): 1752. Web.
3. Biasini, C. et al. “A05effect Of Mediterranean Diet On The Prevalence Of Breast Cancer Relapse: Preliminary Results Of The “SETA PROJECT”.” Annals of Oncology 26. suppl 6 (2015): vi4.2-vi4. Web.
4. Buckland, G et al. “Adherence To The Mediterranean Diet And Risk Of Breast Cancer In The European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer And Nutrition Cohort Study.” International Journal of Cancer 132.12 (2012): 2918-2927. Print.
5 December 2019
Our research grants programme helps us to understand the causes of breast cancer so that one day we can prevent more people from being diagnosed with breast cancer. Part of...Read full story
14 August 2019
A healthy diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, can help to prevent many diseases, including cancers such as breast cancer. But what is the connection between a healthy diet and...Read full story
20 June 2019
It’s Clean Air Day today which provides a unique opportunity to renew calls on the Government to introduce a new Clean Air Act to tackle the primary sources of air...Read full story
A donation of just £5 can help us reach out to new mums with educational information and guidance on how they can protect the future health of their children.
A donation of £30 can help provide a Breast Cancer Prevention kit to help our Ambassadors deliver talks, providing healthy lifestyle advice and practical tips that can help people reduce their risk of breast cancer.
Your donation of £100 can help train one of our PhD students, who work on vital research which aims to understand the causes of breast cancer and identify risk factors.
Just want to help in some way? donate an amount that feels right for you
New easy way for you to donate to Breast Cancer UK:
Donate £5 please text to 70970