Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women. With 55,000 cases diagnosed every year in the UK, an estimated 1 in 8 women face the prospect of developing the disease at some point in their lives. As consultant breast cancer surgeon at London’s Royal Free Hospital, I know first-hand the impact of [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Foodie-way to fight breast cancer

By Professor Mohammad Keshtgar

Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women. With 55,000 cases diagnosed every year in the UK, an estimated 1 in 8 women face the prospect of developing the disease at some point in their lives.

The purple colour in beetroot has been shown to have anti-carcinogenic properties

As consultant breast cancer surgeon at London’s Royal Free Hospital, I know first-hand the impact of this illness on women and their families. But avoiding it isn’t just about luck. I have become increasingly convinced that diet and lifestyle play a part in the development of breast cancer. Making changes really can reduce your risk.

Numerous studies now show the risk of many different cancers is undoubtedly influenced by diet (particularly whether you eat enough fruit and vegetables), your weight, whether you exercise, smoke or drink alcohol.Numerous studies are continually analysing compounds in specific foods, but many doctors are confident the Mediterranean diet, packed with fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, fish and olive oil, can reduce the risk of breast cancer, particularly in post-menopausal women.

Studies now show as many as nine per cent of cancer cases could be prevented by dietary changes.A major study led by my colleagues at the University of Westminster focuses on the effects of diet and lifestyle on the recurrence of breast cancer.
They are co-ordinating the largest dietary study to date of UK breast cancer patients, analysing the diets of more than 3,000 sufferers from 56 NHS hospitals.

Three years into this five-year study, there is strong evidence to suggest that breast cancer recurrence rates can be reduced – and survival rates improved – when patients adopt a healthy lifestyle. Working with nutritionist Dr Claire Robertson and biochemist Dr Miriam Dwek, from the University of Westminster’s Against Breast Cancer Unit, we have come up with a simple set of dietary recommendations that will improve your health – and might just save your life.

Broccoli is an excellent source of plant nutrients and can help to prevent cancer cells from developing

What to eat more of
Aim to eat at least five portions (400g/1 lb) of vegetables and fruit per day. Here’s why:

  • Vegetables and fruit are rich in antioxidants which prevent a process called oxidation (where oxygen molecules join with other chemicals to create gene damage in cells) which can lead to cancer development.
  • They are an excellent source of dietary fibre which, studies suggest, can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Plants such as soy contain phyto- estrogens, which mimic the oestrogen found in your body. These may modulate the body’s own production of the hormone in a way that prevents cancer cell growth.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and cabbage are a particularly excellent source of plant nutrients which have been shown to prevent the formation of cancer cells and stop the spread of cancer.
  • Beans and pulses are a great source of fibre, vegetable protein – which can help your body repair any damage imposed by cancer treatments – calcium, iron and B vitamins. Increase your consumption by adding canned pulses to soups, stews and salads or blitz them to make dips.
  • n Dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale and beetroot are loaded with a B vitamin which can strengthen your DNA and so reduce cancer risk.

Red meat, which contains saturated fat, can increase the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer

What to eat less of

  • Red meat. Saturated fat is associated with the risk of developing post- menopausal breast cancer and poorer survival after breast cancer diagnosis.
  • Eat less than 70-90g per day and try to avoid overcooking meat. Be careful not to char your food on a grill or barbecue as this can produce carcinogenic chemicals.
  • Cakes, biscuits and pastries. Watch out for the ‘hidden fats’ in treats and avoid trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fat) which increase total cholesterol and lower the ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol.
  • Sugar. Refined sugar raises blood glucose levels and elevates insulin concentrations – a known risk factor for breast cancer development.
  • Processed meats. Some preservatives that are used in the production of processed meats (bacon, ham and hot dogs, for example) are thought (but not proven) to be carcinogenic.

Six cancer-fighting superstars Sesame seeds
Packed with healthy unsaturated fats, all seeds are an excellent source of omega-3s and omega-6s. They also provide soluble fibre, phytochemicals and plant sterols, which can protect against many diseases, including cancer.
Sesame seeds (either plain or toasted, as sesame oil and tahini paste) contain useful minerals and phytoestrogens that help regulate the body’s oestrogen production and are known to hinder the production and spread of certain tumour cells. Sprinkle seeds over salads and add to muesli, muffins and home-made bread.

Edamame beans
These bright green soy beans are a good source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytoestrogens, thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells), and the only vegetable regarded as a complete protein food because they contain all nine essential amino acids. Defrost and add to salads (delicious with crumbled feta cheese and mint) or add to meat dishes to maximise the meal’s nutritional value.

Beetroot is delicious eaten raw, finely shredded, roasted, or cooked and pickled. The purple colour comes from betacyanin, a compound shown in studies to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Leaves can be eaten like spinach and are packed with iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C and E.

This common herb is rich in phytochemicals and a good source of vital nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K and several B vitamins, as well as important minerals. It is thought that sage’s phytochemical content may help prevent the formation of cancer and/or suppress its development.

A powerful source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has the potential to inhibit breast cancer by stopping cancer cell growth. Lycopene becomes more potent after cooking and processing, so try our recipes below.

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel – which are rich in omega-3 – help to decrease inflammation (and blood pressure), and provide a source of vitamin D to promote calcium uptake by the bones. Salmon may also contain natural chemopreventative agents that can inhibit or impede cancer.
Aim to eat oily fish once or twice a week.

Keep fit and stay slim 
About 5 per cent of breast cancer cases could be avoided by simply maintaining a healthy body weight. Several studies confirm exercise’s link to reduced risk, possibly as it lowers oestrogen levels, modifying ways we store and process what we eat.

© Daily Mail, London

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