October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Speaking of awareness, most people already know that genetics and a family history of cancer can increase your cancer risk, but the fact that certain diet and lifestyle behaviors can decrease your risk of developing cancer is not as widely accepted. It has been estimated by the the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund that 30 to 40% of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle and dietary factors alone. Unfortunately, while following many of the suggested interventions does not guarantee a life free of cancer, it does strengthen the immune system and improve the chances of staving off cancer cell growth.
What does the research say?
While there is considerable research pointing to a link between cancer and diet, it should be stated that a cause-and-effect relationship has yet to be established and necessitates further research. However, the scientific community widely accepts that a poor diet (high sugar, high refined grains, low in fiber & nutrients), excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, lack of physical activity and stress are leading contributors to the increasing cases of cancer worldwide.
Much of the current research examines the relationship between specific foods and cancer risk, trying to point to causation, rather than dietary patterns as a whole. However, this singular approach is flawed. There is no one magic food that can singlehandedly prevent cancer just as there is no magic pill that will help us lose weight and keep it off. Instead, weight loss and chronic disease prevention come down to the sum of many dietary and lifestyle choices. Dr. Servan-Schreiber, a prominent neurosurgeon, after having been diagnosed with a brain tumor, dedicated his last years of his life to examining what medical research existed to associate current lifestyle patterns (diet, mind and fitness) with a weakened immune system. He established a link between a stronger immune system and the ability to suppress cancer cell growth. He showed that cancer cell growth was fueled by sugar and that it should be eliminated from our diet, especially while a patient is undergoing cancer treatment. The culmination of his research and its implementation to managing his own life extended his expected 6-month life sentence to one of 13+ years. His book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life was one of the foundational cornerstones behind what we do at Plantable. Thank you Dr. Servan-Schreiber for your leadership, science and courage. 🙏🙏
The Bottom Line
While no specific diet has been medically proven to prevent cancer, research supports that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber and low in sugar, refined grains and processed foods, may reduce inflammation and boost immunity, which can reduce your chances of developing several forms of cancer, including breast cancer.