Breast Cancer and Nutrition 101

Breast Cancer and Nutrition 101
Food choices YOU decide can MAKE or BREAK your Breast Health
By Wei Wen, Qualified Dietitian 
  •  Breast cancer is the MOST prevalent type of cancer amongst female in Malaysia, but also one with extremely high survival rate (up to 80%)
  • Lifestyle changes, including nutrition, can prevent up to 25-30% cases of breast cancer.

1 in 8 women develop breast cancer in her lifetime. 

The other 7 of them might have practised better nutrition.


How food choices affect the happening of cancer?

Contrary to popular beliefs, the American Cancer Society (ACS) suggested that whilst genetic plays a role, difference in cancer risk is due to lifestyle habits, which include nutrition. Nutrition is important as below :


How nutrition can affect risk of breast cancer 

  1. Bodyweight and body fat maintenance 

A high body mass index (BMI) of above 25 kg/m2 is associated with significantly higher risk of initial breast cancer occurrence. Other than bodyweight, having too much fats around the waist, aka large waist circumference (WC) is also shown to increase risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women. Statistically, women with large waist (>80cm) are found to have 79% higher risk of breast cancer risk.Yes, having a slimmer waist and proper weight are not solely for aesthetic purposes, but also for cancer-reducing reasons!

  1. Anti-cancer genes

An important part of preventing breast cancer is the genes that actively help to suppress tumours, or cancerous cells, called tumour suppressant genes.

Certain cancer incidence was shown to be caused by “spoilage” in these genes, which rendered them ineffective or dysfunctional in performing their function of killing cancer cells or preventing the growth of cancer cells.

Various food choices ranging from herbs (garlic, turmeric), legumes (chickpea, soybean), greens, and fruits contain plant chemicals that may be beneficial in activating genes that promote high activity of killers in our body that locate and destroy cancer cells.

  1. Hormonal balance 

Risk of breast cancer differs amongst premenopausal and postmenopausal women, and this can be explained by estrogen imbalance. 

Estrogen is an important female reproductive hormone that govern important body processes in females. Imbalances in estrogen hormone level have been shown to be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. 

There are claims that certain soy products can mimic the effects of estrogen, thus causing increased risk of breast cancer, although a lot of these claims are unsubstantiated. Nonetheless, food choices can greatly influence hormones, especially reproductive ones, that eventually impact breast cancer risk.


So, what do I do?

As a general rule of thumb, the American Cancer Society (ACS) endorses that a diet emphasising on plant foods, in combination with appropriate portion to maintain a healthy bodyweight, can reduce risk of cancer. 

Here’s how the diet looks like on plate per meal – 

The idea is simple: 

  1. Fill half of the plate with greens 
  2. Fill a quarter with seafoods/meats/chickens/eggs/tofu 
  3. Fill the rest up with whole, hearty grains 

(Yes, it can be hard to achieve this with a plate of wantanmee)

Want to know more about what foods to avoid and have, and in what proportions should they be taken in moderation?

Stay tuned to our next post! Till then, bump up the greens and grains 😉


Disclaimer: The statements above are not intended to diagnose or treat any form of medical condition, nor should it replace your physician’s advice.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published