A new study from the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that women with early-stage breast cancer might not need chemotherapy treatment.
The study called TAILORx trial studied 6,711 women between the ages of 18 and 75 with hormone-receptor-positive and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative cancers that haven’t spread to the lymph nodes.
The participants were given gene tests to determine who could skip chemotherapy and take an estrogen-blocking drug and those who could take a drug that prevents the body from making estrogen altogether.
The hormone-blocking drug is part of a larger class of treatment called endocrine therapy. Unlike chemotherapy, endocrine therapy is less invasive and has fewer harsh side effects. With more than 260,000 new cases of breast cancer expected in American women this year, this new form of treatment is significant for those with early stages of the disease.
Although many risk factors for breast cancer are out of your control, such as genetic factors like having the BRCA1 or 2 genes, there is evidence to support that a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a nutrient-dense diet may affect your risk of cancer.
In fact, experts estimate that we may be able to prevent as many as 1 out of every 20 cancer cases simply by changing what we eat.
While no single food is guaranteed to keep you cancer-free, shifting your diet to include more of these foods that can help fight breast cancer wouldn’t hurt. Below, we’ve listed some of these nutritional stars. Breast cancer isn’t the only ailment that affects women disproportionately.
Eating a serving of fungi a day might help protect you from breast cancer, according to an International Journal of Cancer study.
Researchers found that Chinese women who consumed just 10 grams (which is equal to a single, small ‘shroom!) or more of fresh mushrooms every day were about two-thirds less likely to develop breast cancer than non-mushroom eaters.
High mushroom intake has also been associated with lower risk of breast cancers among premenopausal women. While studies haven’t nailed a cause-and-effect relationship between mushrooms and breast health, you’ll still be doing your body a favor whenever you add immune-boosting vitamin-D-rich mushrooms to a meal!\
2. Navy Beans
We’ve been telling you all about how high fiber foods can help with weight loss by prolonging feelings of fullness, but did you know they may also help you reduce your risk of breast cancer? According to Harvard researchers, for every 10 grams of fiber consumed daily, a woman’s breast cancer risk decreases by a whopping 7 percent!
The authors speculate the fiber helps to reduce high estrogen levels in the blood, which are strongly linked with breast cancer development. One of the best high-fiber foods is beans. Navy beans, in particular, pack a solid 9.6 grams of fiber per half a cup—that’s more than what you’ll find in four slices of Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal Bread! Throw some of these pulses into your next bean soup to reap the benefits.
Walnuts will help you reduce your risk of breast cancer in two ways. For starters, this heart-shaped nut contains a vitamin called gamma tocopherol that stops the activation of Akt—an enzyme that is essential for cancer cell survival—without harming healthy cells. Walnuts also contain cholesterol-like molecules called phytosterols that can help regulate estrogen levels in men and women and even slow the growth of breast cancer cells by blocking estrogen receptors. Animal research published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that when mice were given the human equivalent of two ounces of walnuts every day for a month, the growth rate of tumors in the walnut-eating mice was half that of the animals who weren’t able to crunch on the nuts.
4. Cooked Tomatoes
Besides the fact that they make a great pasta sauce, you should also consume cooked tomatoes because they may help reduce women’s risk of developing breast cancer! Recent findings, reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that a carotenoid antioxidant found in tomatoes—known as lycopene—was particularly effective at helping women with the harder-to-treat version of breast cancer: estrogen receptor (ER)–negative tumors. While women with the highest levels of carotenoids, in general, had a 19 percent lower risk of breast cancer, women with the highest levels of lycopene, specifically, had a 22 percentdecreased risk.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Like tomatoes, orange-colored veggies are a top source of carotenoids. Sweet potatoes, specifically, are rich in a specific carotenoid known as beta-carotene. The same Journal of the National Cancer Institute study found that women with the highest levels of beta-carotene in their blood had a 17 percent lower risk of developing certain types of breast cancer. The theory is that carotenoids contain compounds that help regulate cell growth, defense, and repair. To get the most carotenoids out of your taters, science says your best bet is to blanch them and season with your favorite spice mix.
Sure, it’s the number-two food when it comes to fruit sugar, but eating these fiber-rich seeds can help your body inhibit the growth of hormone-dependent breast cancer. According to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, the ellagic acid in pomegranates might help protect against breast cancer by suppressing estrogen production and preventing the growth of cancer cells. Not interested in staining your favorite shirt every time you open the fruit? Fruits like raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts, and pecans are also rich in ellagic acid.
Tea, especially green tea, is packed with polyphenols—a class of antioxidants with immense health benefits. One of those benefits includes anti-breast cancer properties. A small study conducted by the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute found that Japanese women who drank at least one cup of green tea daily had less urinary estrogen—a known carcinogen of the breast—than non tea-drinkers. To reap the benefits, be sure to brew your own cup at home; It would take 20 bottles of store-bought bottled tea to get the polyphenol-power of a single home-brewed cup, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Crunch on a crucifer and help crush cancer. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli can help you beat breast cancer. That’s all thanks to these veggies containing an anti-inflammatory compound known as sulforaphane, which has been found to eliminate breast-cancer-causing chemicals and inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells.
9. Wild Salmon
This fatty fish is rich in healthy fats—mainly, omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats have been linked to improved breast cancer prognosis. A large-scale analysis of international studies published in the journal BMJ found that women who consumed the most fish-based omega-3 fatty acids were 14 percent less likely to have breast cancer, compared to those who ate the least. For overall health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends adding a mere 3.5-ounce serving of wild-caught fatty fish to your diet twice a week. Salmon doesn’t even have to be your go-to. Other fish high in omega-3s include cod, mackerel, and anchovies.
10. Vitamin-D-Fortified Organic Milk
Milk alternatives might be all the rave right now, but unless they’re vitamin-D-fortified, we say forget ’em. In addition to helping your body absorb calcium, University of California San Diego researchers found that vitamin D can also ward off breast cancer as well as colon and ovarian cancers. The study, published in Cancer Prevention Research found that an adequate vitamin D intake could reduce breast cancer risk in women by up to 50 percent. Strengthening these findings, a more recent study linked low levels of vitamin D in the blood to higher rates of breast cancer tumor progression. To reap the benefits, enjoy vitamin-D-enriched dairy in your morning coffee, mix it into oatmeal, or use it to whip up a post-pump smoothie.
11. Olive Oil
Bonus points for the Mediterranean diet! When Spanish researchers had women supplement their Mediterranean diets with extra-virgin olive oil, the researchers found that these women had a 68 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women whose dietary fats came from corn oil. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, speculated that the olive oil’s anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds and oleic acid may have quelled the growth of malignant cells.
Eggs are one of the most potent sources of an essential—and hard-to-get—nutrient known as choline. This neurotransmitter building block is necessary for the structure and function of all cells, and a deficiency in this compound has been linked to neurological disorders and decreased cognitive function. Not only does it act as brain food, but it may also help lower your risk of breast cancer! According to The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, women who consumed the highest amount of choline had the lowest risk of breast cancer compared with those who consumed the least.
Leafy greens, like spinach, pack a one-two punch when it comes to fighting breast cancer. For starters, they’re a top source of the dynamic carotenoid duo, lutein, and zeaxanthin, of which high levels have been connected to a 16 percent reduced rate of breast cancer. And secondly, they’re a primo source of folate, a B vitamin that strengthens your DNA and is crucial in lowering risk of neural tube defects during pregnancy. Low levels of folate have most recently been linked to increased breast cancer risk in a study published in the journal PLoS ONE. To reap the rewards, grab some spinach, kale, or asparagus.
This root spice contains the compound curcumin, an antioxidant polyphenol with chemopreventive properties. Because chronic inflammation is a major risk factor for the development and metastatic progression of cancer, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties play a major role in diminishing the formation of breast cancer, according to a study in Molecular Oncology.
Coffee drinkers won’t just get an energy jolt with every cup, they may actually help lower their risk of antiestrogen-resistant estrogen-receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer, as well. A 2011 study in Breast Cancer Research found that coffee drinkers had a lower incidence of ER-negative breast cancer than women who rarely drank the morning joe. According to one of the study authors, Jingmei Li, PhD, “One possibility is that coffee’s antioxidants protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer.”
They’re one of our favorite Greek yogurt toppers: antioxidant-rich peaches. In 2014, researchers at Texas A&M found that the precise mixture of phenolic compounds present in a peach extract was able to inhibit the metastasis—or spread—of breast cancer cells in mice. Researchers say that the dosage equivalent used in the experiment would be equivalent to humans consuming two to three peaches per day.
Chickpeas are one of our Surprising High-Protein Foods for Weight Loss because they’re high in fiber and plant protein, and are the main ingredient in our fave dip ever, hummus (duh!). What’s even more impressive is that a study published in the Nutrition and Cancer journal discovered that these legumes can prevent breast cancer thanks to their anti-cancer agents called protease inhibitor concentrates.
Blueberries are one of the most widely-consumed berries in the U.S., and it makes sense—they are delicious and easy to add to everything from Greek yogurt to fruit salad. Another perk of these sweet berries is they are rich in antioxidants. A review published in the journal Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry found that blueberries “show promise as effective anti-cancer agents” due to their ability to prevent pro-inflammatory molecules from being formed. They have been shown to prevent the beginning of cancer formation, and increase healthy cells’ ability to kill off dangerous cells. Add a serving of blueberries to your smoothies, parfaits, or sprinkle in a spinach salad.
Another reason to pick up that bag of baby carrots: According to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, out of 33,000 women, those who had the highest amount of carotenoids in their blood had 18 to 28 percent lower risk of breast cancer. Carrots are jam-packed with these cancer-fighting antioxidants, which is why you should chop some up and add them to these 26 Flat Belly Soups.
Not only do they make the perfect dessert and sweet snack, strawberries can also help fight cancer, according to a study in Scientific Reports. “We have shown for the first time that strawberry extract, rich in phenolic compounds, inhibits the proliferation of breast cancer cells in in vitro and in vivo models,” Maurizio Battino, co-author of the paper, said in a press release.