Diet & Breast Cancer : The Prevention Connection
The best selling book, The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet: The Powerful Foods, Supplements, and Drugs That Can Save Your Life (1999) by Dr. Bob Arnot has focused the media spotlight on diet and nutrition as a cancer prevention option.
However, the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) President Fran Visco called the book "misleading and harmful." Which opinion is right and what does it mean to us?
Fran Visco's reaction is based on the knowledge that breast cancer is a complex disease. The risk factors are not fully understood. They include, among others: heredity, environment, obesity, level of physical activity, whether a woman has had children, and how old she was when the first child was born. Black women have a higher rate of breast cancer deaths than white women. Scandinavians and Ashkenazi Jews have a higher incidence than other white ethnic groups.
Nutrition plays a role in cancer, including breast cancer. Dr. Arnot suggests monthly breast self examination and an annual clinical exam including a yearly mammogram. He also recommends exercise to reduce your chances of becoming a breast cancer victim. The lifestyle and diet changes he feels will prevent cancer include avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and chemical estrogens. You should attempt to maintain a low fat, high fiber diet rich in soy (35-60gms daily). Meat, dairy, and eggs should be hormone free. Fresh fruit and vegetable juice, flaxseed (25gms) for the Omega-3 fatty acids, and oily fish or fish oil capsules should be included every day. He warns against eating rice, potatoes, pasta and other high carbohydrate foods that lead to the production of insulin when digested.
Let's take a look at some of the information that the scientific community accepts as valid in the role of diet as a cancer fighter. The American Cancer Society has published "Guidelines on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer Prevention" :
1. Choose most of the foods you eat from plant sources.
Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. (authors note: most sources agree that cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, mustard greens, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, and pumpkin are good vegetables to include in your diet.) Eat other foods from plant sources, such as breads, cereals, grain products, rice, pasta, or beans several times each day.
2. Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources.
Choose foods low in fat. Limit consumption of meats, especially high-fat meats.
3. Be physically active: achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Be at least moderately active for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week. Stay within your healthy weight range.
4. Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages, if you drink at all."
You'll notice that some of the recommended foods are the same ones that Dr. Arnot warns against.
Fran Grossman is considered one of New Yorks leading health and nutrition experts by the scientific community. Her 1999 article, "Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer: How Your Diet Affects Your Risk," agrees with many of Bob Arnot's recommendations. She also includes warnings such as, "While some researchers believe that the phytoestrogens in soy are beneficial for women, others are afraid that they can be dangerous for women with breast cancer. At this time, studies are inconclusive as to the long-term physiologic effects of the phytoestrogens contained in soy. Until more information is available, it is a good idea not to overdo your consumption of soy foods if you are at risk for, or have been diagnosed as having, breast cancer."
This is in direct contrast to the recommendations in the Breast Cancer Prevention Diet. Dr. Arnot says to load your diet with soy, 35-60gms daily! He says to eat miso, tofu, roasted soy nuts, soy cheese, soy milk, soy nut spreads, soy burgers, links and patties, soy flour, soy frozen desserts, soy protein bars, soy protein shakes, and tempeh. If soy is dangerous for women with breast cancer and you follow these directions ...you may be in serious trouble!
Eating a healthy diet is always a good idea, so is getting regular excercise, avoiding stress, living in a healthy environment and having good genes.
Remember that there are NO easy answers in the war against breast cancer. Anyone who tells you that they know all the answers is someone to be avoided. Buy the book if you want, read it and take the information in it for what it's worth - some sound ideas, but some unproven facts that can be dangerous. Like everything else about this disease, you need to do your own homework. Get all the information from anyone and everywhere, mix it well and take it to your doctor for final approval.
also see -> Reduce Breast Cancer Risks - Watch Your Weight
Elsewhere on the Web:
Burger Diet Raises Breast Cancer Risk
Low fat diet breast cancer hope (BBC News)
Breast Cancer & Diet