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Nutritional science continues to sharpen our understanding of how the foods we eat may contribute to the development of cancer as well as how certain foods can support a patient nutritionally while in active treatment.
With breast cancer specifically, research is showing that because it’s often a hormonally-driven disease, controlling your weight and managing your diet can be helpful during treatment and may help decrease your chances of developing the disease in the first place.
Dr. Gertraud Maskarinec, a physician in preventive medicine and nutritional epidemiology and associate director for research education at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu, says that while there isn’t a so-called “best diet” for preventing or dealing with breast cancer, avoiding obesity is important.
“In terms of breast cancer and what we know about nutrition, the number one thing we know is that for women after menopause – those over age 50 – obesity is the risk factor” to be most concerned about. “That is the best known nutritional risk factor, so avoiding obesity after menopause is really the best thing we can do.”
Sagar Sardesai, assistant professor and co-medical director of the high risk breast program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus, agrees.
“Excess body weight has been consistently linked with an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. As such, consuming a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables while lowering intake of processed foods and saturated fats may help maintain a healthy body weight.”
To control weight, Maskarinec recommends eating a balanced diet that prohibits weight gain. “I would say we don’t have much evidence that eating particular foods will help. But eating in a balanced way is the (best) approach. It’s not one food that’ll particularly save you or not save you, it’s the overall state of health.”