Women's Health

Can a Plant-Based Diet Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk?

Most people know a diet rich in fruits, whole grains, and vegetables can help you lead a healthier life. These foods provide necessary nutrients, give you energy, and even help you prevent diseases. A natural diet can even help prevent heart disease and diabetes, but did you know that a plant-based diet might also help you prevent breast cancer? Learn about some of the cancer-hindering compounds in your new favorite foods.

What to Love About Lignans

A lignan is a naturally occurring phytoestrogen, a nutrient that acts in a similar way to the estrogen formed by your body. Studies have shown that high levels of estrogen in the blood can slightly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, so adding phytoestrogens into your system through diet would surely increase your risk of breast cancer, right?

“Actually, phytoestrogens behave differently from regular estrogen. Phytoestrogens from lignans are weak compared to the estrogen created by your body, and they can counteract your existing estrogen when they enter the breast cell’s estrogen receptor. This means tumors that use estrogen for growth will not be able to develop in the presence of the phytoestrogens,” says Patricia Sammarelli, MD, physician at CHI St. Joseph Health Primary Care West Villa Maria.

Phytoestrogens can also give your body the power to keep potentially cancerous cells from reproducing. When the harmful cells are shut down, they aren’t able to spread in your body, so they can’t rapidly multiply to form tumors.

Foods Rich in Lignans

  • Nuts and seeds, such as cashews and sunflower seeds
  • Fruits, such as strawberries and cherries
  • Vegetables, such as broccoli and sweet peppers
  • Whole grains, such as whole wheat and oats

Appetizing Antioxidants

Antioxidants can help prevent multiple types of cancer and are abundant in several plants. This substance helps neutralize free radicals, which your body creates when an atom or molecule gains or loses an electron. If left to their own devices, free radicals can harm cells and DNA, so the neutralizing nature of antioxidants helps prevent damage to your body that could increase your risk of cancer.

Foods Rich in Antioxidants

  • Fruits like strawberries and blueberries
  • Vegetables like artichokes and kale
  • Beans, including red, kidney, and pinto
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans

A healthy, plant-based diet is a great way to lower your risk of cancer, but it won’t completely eliminate your chance of a positive diagnosis. Visit your CHI St. Joseph Health gynecologist for regular clinical breast exams and follow their recommendations on regular mammogram screenings at our ACR Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.

Should you test positive for breast cancer, put your trust in our team at the CHI St. Joseph Health Cancer Center. We're the Brazos Valley’s leader in oncology, accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) for our focus on patient needs and providing outstanding care that exceeds national standards.


Sources:
Oncology Nutrition | Flaxseeds and Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer | Plant-Based Diet May Decrease Risk
American Institute for Cancer Research | Plant-Based Diet Can Lower Risk of Breast Cancer
Live Stone | Foods High in Lignans
Susan G. Komen | Blood Estrogen Levels
National Cancer Institute | Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention
Healthline | 12 Healthy Foods High in Antioxidants

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