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Reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence through diet changes

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.

1. Reduce your fat intake

The Women’s Intervention Nutrition Study in 2008 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. A study published in 2014 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute also linked to high overall fat intake, and saturated fat intake, to increased risk of breast cancer.

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2. Monitor your insulin and blood sugar levels

In recent years, researchers have found that women with early-stage breast cancer who had higher insulin levels had poor survival rates compared to women with lower insulin levels. Another study even showed that women who were overweight but had healthy insulin levels were not at an increased risk.

So, while weight isn’t the primary factor at play here, choosing a whole-foods diet and staying fit can help reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence that can occur with elevated sugar and insulin levels.Healthy diets and controlled insulin levels can also improve survival rates in those diagnosed at early stages. 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.

More: 10 Ways to prevent breast cancer

3. Dietary strategies to prevent breast cancer recurrence

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.)

Eat 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.

Eat 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.

More: 21 Brussels sprouts recipes that are anything but mushy

Eat more fiber

Design diet for you that’s high in fiber. Eat whole cereal grains, particularly those with soluble fiber such as oats and barley, beans 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.

Limit 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 insulin growth factor.

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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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