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Eating to Beat Breast Cancer

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We have all heard the adage, “You are what you eat,” but can what you eat really decrease your breast cancer risk?


So says Dr. Mary Flynn, Chief Research Dietitian at Miriam Hospital and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Brown University, and co-author of The Pink Ribbon Diet.

What you eat can affect some of the steps in the cancer progress, as well as sometimes increase your breast cancer risk, including the initiation of cancer, tumor development and progression. In fact, she says studies have shown that while some foods increase your risk, conversely, other foods decrease it.

While genetic and past environmental factors contribute to everyone’s cancer risk and is beyond our control, eating a diet rich in beneficial foods is something we can control that will decrease the risk of breast cancer, she says, and lose weight in the process.

Flynn based her book on a quarter-century of research and experience to produce a unique program to tackle breast cancer for healthy women and those recovering from the disease.

The diet is a two-prong approach to reducing breast cancer. First and foremost it helps shed those unwanted pounds — a known contributor to breast cancer, and second, reducing cancer biomarkers.

Biomarkers are endogenous proteins or metabolites that signal tumors present in tissues or body fluids. Biomarkers are used to identify risk assessment and early cancer detection.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Pink Ribbon Diet is that's it's rich in fats. Flynn says although low-fat diets were previously thought to be beneficial, they may actually increase your chances of developing the disease.

She points to a large study of 50,000 women where very low-fat diets doubled the breast cancer risk. The study results suggest the body needs a certain amount of dietary fat to process and metabolize food properly. Likewise, fats are important in staving off hunger.

“Hunger is what drives people to stop dieting, but eating fat at a meal delays hunger between meals, and helps reduce the overall calories consumed.” Dr Flynn said.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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