“Instead of our genes, our lifestyle and environment account for 90–95% of our most chronic illnesses.” That’s the conclusion of Dr. Bharat Aggarwal who works in a laboratory at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In an extensive article he draws on all the evidence that diet, smoking, exercise and environmental chemicals and radiation cause almost all cancers.
What should you do to prevent breast cancer then? The answer is a bit surprising. Although most of us attribute smoking as the number one preventable cause of all cancer, Dr. Aggarwal actually states that what you eat is the most important contributor to breast cancer risk. The foods that you eat can either promote cancer growth or they can prevent and even help reverse the cancer in many cases. Breast cancer is provoked by high circulating levels of female hormone like estrogen, estradiol and estriol.
These compounds are found at high levels in certain foods, but they also build up in the fat cells of your body. That is why being over your ideal body weight is a risk factor for breast cancer. Basically fat cells store the hormones that provoke cancer growth. So the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund recommend that you be as lean as possible without being under weight.
Even better, having a healthy population of bacteria in the gut can actually remove excess estrogen from the body, acting to flush out the unnecessary hormones. How do you get those healthy bacteria to thrive? Dietary fiber.
Research has shown that women who eat over 50 grams (just under two ounces) of fiber a day can reduce their risk of breast cancer by about half. Such a huge benefit from such a small change! Just like your grandmother told you, it’s important to eat your greens and beans!
Diets that emphasize plant foods as the primary source of calories, that keep the body trim and lean and that promote the growth of healthy bacteria are easy for you to construct. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, spices like turmeric, ginger and coriander, and whole grains like wheat, oatmeal and barley have all been shown in the scientific literature to prevent cancers.
If you need help, we have trained nutrition specialists and educational resources that can assist you in making fixes to your lifestyle that can prevent and in many cases reverse this dreaded disease.
As a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, I’m committed to helping people turn their lives around. Our practice is focused on using lifestyle to eliminate unnecessary medications and treatments and prevent disease in the future. The best case of breast cancer is the one you never get.