Preventing Breast
Cancer Recurrence

There is a growing body of evidence that diet plays a significant role in helping prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. For example, fat intake has been linked to breast cancer recurrence and shortened survival rates in cancer patients, while reducing the amount of fat you eat can improve prognosis. There’s been a lot of attention paid to breast cancer prevention, but breast cancer survivors need to know how to prevent breast cancer from coming back. Here’s how what you eat can help you reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Breast cancer survivor eating healthy dietReduce your fat intake

The Women's Intervention Nutrition Study looked at 2,437 postmenopausal breast cancer patients and found that when fat intake in their diets was reduced to 20 percent or less, risk of recurrence was cut by an impressive 24 percent. Among women who had low or no estrogen receptors (referred to as estrogen negative), the low-fat diet was even more effective. This group showed a 42 percent reduction in breast cancer recurrence.

Monitor your insulin and blood sugar levels

In recent years, researchers have found that women with early-stage breast cancer who had the highest insulin levels were twice as likely to have their tumor metastasize, and three times as likely to die of breast cancer, as women whose insulin levels were the lowest. Choosing a whole-foods diet and staying fit can help reduce risks of breast cancer recurrence that can occur with elevated sugar and insulin levels. At the Block Center, we strongly advise patients combatting breast cancer, trying to prevent recurrence, or with high risk factors that call for focused breast cancer prevention efforts ask their doctor to routinely monitor their insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as their insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).

Dietary strategies to prevent breast cancer recurrence

We believe that careful, long-term monitoring is necessary to individualize therapeutic interventions for each patient. There are ways you can modify your diet to help prevent breast cancer or help avoid breast cancer recurrence that are appropriate for all of our patients. (The exception: women with a marked wasting syndrome or anorexic condition.)

1Eat healthy fats in moderation

Eat a diet lower in fat, ideally no more than 18 percent of your daily caloric intake. Choose foods high in "good" fats – monounsaturated and omega-3 fats – from walnuts, flaxseed oil, and cold-water fish such as salmon; and omega-9 fatty acids that you can find in olives, olive oil, almonds and avocados. Though these contain healthier fats, they should all be consumed in limited quantities due to their relatively high fat content.

2Reach for cruciferous vegetables

Eat cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, bok choy, and brussels sprouts, which contain plant phytochemicals that can bind and lower blood estrogen levels while increasing the estrogen detoxification capacity of the liver.

3Fill up on fiber

Eat a diet high in fiber. Eat whole cereal grains, particularly those with soluble fiber such as oats and barleybeans and legumes and fruits and vegetables. Cracked flax, besides adding healthy fiber, contains lignans, which have been shown to provide protection for women at risk for breast cancer. These fiber-rich foods help you feel full longer, and don't cause the sudden rise in blood-sugar levels that can occur when consuming refined carbohydrates.

4Limit animal protein

Reduce or, better still, eliminate red meat and poultry. Instead, use plant-based sources of protein such as lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers and wheat-gluten products such as seitan.

These cancer-fighting nutritional recommendations are intended to help curtail inflammation, reduce free-radical damage, minimize platelet activation (which can lead to dangerous blood clotting), manage blood-sugar surges and reduce serum levels of IGF-1. Ideally, however, a nutrition plan, along with whole plant supplements, should be individualized to your unique laboratory-tested needs. Talk with your doctor about these and other dietary strategies to reduce your risk of breast cancer recurrence.

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Comments on "Reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence"

Hank October 18, 2011 | 2:49 PM

I agree completely with "diet" being a key component of managing your cancer. Nutrient supplementation, i.e. Modified Citrus Pectin, Curcumin, Lactoferrin PSK and others, can significantly prepare the body for surgery and post surgical nutrional supplementation. Whether it's to inhibit angiogenesis (formation of new blood passages), strengthening your immune system, Natural Killer cells, preventing cell adhesions, many of these nutrients can help. Bravo to you Dr. Keith Block, for your innovative approaches to help people deal with their cancers with an ultimate goals of curing, mitigating or managing cnacers and not allowing them to gain the upper hand.

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