Which Dietary Factors Affect Breast Cancer Most?


“Which Dietary Factors Affect Breast Cancer Most?” My favorite cancer-specific charity is
the American Institute for Cancer Research, shown here lauding the China Study and
the documentary, Forks Over Knives, with which they share the
same bottom-line message. The healthiest diets are those that
revolve around whole plant foods. This increased awareness of the importance of plant-
based eating is something the Institute welcomes. They then translate that advice into their
Ten Recommendations for Cancer Prevention. Do we actually have evidence, though, that those who follow such advice are actually protected against cancer? We do now. Breast cancer risk was
reduced by 60% in women who met at least five recommendations
compared with those who met none. The most important dietary advice was be as lean as
possible within the normal range of body weight, eat mostly foods of plant origin, and limit alcoholic drinks. What about other cancers? Greater adherence to the AICR dietary guidelines
was associated with significantly less breast, endometrial, colorectal, lung, kidney,
stomach, oral, liver, and esophageal cancer. In other words, adherence to dietary
recommendations for cancer prevention may lower the risk of developing
most types of cancer. The drop in bladder cancer did not
reach statistical significance here, but a larger follow up study following 469,000
people for 11 years, the largest to date, found that just a 3% increase in the consumption
of animal protein calories was associated
with a 15% higher risk of bladder cancer, whereas just a 2% increase in plant protein
was associated with a 23% lower risk. AICR recommendation #10 is that cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention. The same diet that can help prevent cancer
in the first place can be used to help
save your life after diagnosis. Adherence to the guidelines for cancer
prevention was found to be associated with lower mortality among older female cancer
survivors, including specifically breast cancer. A cancer diagnosis is considered a teachable moment
to get people eating and living healthier. They revel at the growth in the number of cancer survivors in this country, now 10 million strong and growing. It’s great that those with cancer are living
longer, but even better to prevent it in
the first place so we can all live longer. Not only does adherence to the guidelines lower
cancer risk, but extends lifespan in general, because they’re also significantly associated with a lower hazard of dying from heart disease and respiratory disease, suggesting that following the recommendations
could significantly increase longevity as well. What’s good for cancer prevention is good
for your heart, is good for your lungs. And just as eating to prevent cancer
helps to prevent heart disease, eating to
protect our heart helps prevent cancer. I know it sounds self-evident, but adherence
to a healthy lifestyle has been shown to be
associated with a lower risk of death, and the more healthy behaviors we
have, the longer we get to live. That can mean not smoking, or walking every day, or
eating green leafy vegetables at least almost daily. To help differentiate the effects of
diet from other lifestyle behaviors like smoking and drinking on cancer incidence,
Adventists were compared to Baptists. Both discourage alcohol and tobacco, but the Adventists go further, encouraging a reduction in meat. In general, the Adventists had a lower cancer hazard
rate than the Baptists, and within Adventist populations, the vegetarians did even better, and those
eating the most plants did the best.

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