Understanding the impact your diet has upon your breast cancer risk.

23 Aug 2021

We all know the saying ‘you are what you eat’, but when it comes to the impact upon your breast cancer risk, it’s important to understand how certain foods can influence your health.

According to a recent analysis of 20 studies by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, women who ate high fibre diets were 8% less likely to go on to develop breast cancer compared with the women who ate low fibre diets.

The reduction in risk was observed for both pre and post-menopausal breast cancers, as well as different types of breast cancer, including oestrogen and progesterone receptor positive and negative cancers. The researchers indicated that the reduction in risk may be due to fibre’s ability to reduce both blood sugar and oestrogen levels in the body.

It is widely accepted amongst medical and nutritional experts that fibre promotes many health benefits such as maintaining a healthy digestive system, improved cardiovascular health and the stabilisation of glucose and cholesterol levels. The analysis prompted us to dive a little deeper into understanding the impact that your diet and lifestyle has on your breast cancer risk.

The Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults recommend that you:

    • Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
    • Eat plenty of wholegrain breads and cereals
    • Eat a diet low in fat (particularly saturated fat)
    • Keep a healthy body weight by balancing physical activity and how much you eat
    • Limit how much alcohol you drink
    • Eat only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugar
    • Choose low-salt foods and use only a little extra salt
    • Encourage and support breast feeding

We reached out to Dr Samriti Sood, Oncological Breast Surgeon to ask what diet and lifestyle advice she provides to her patients.

Advice from Dr Samriti Sood.
I believe that diet and lifestyle modification is very important in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. It has been shown in medical literature that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of breast cancer and its recurrence.

I give my patients advice on increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight (body mass index) and reducing alcohol intake to 3-4 standard drinks per week with at least 1-2 alcohol free nights a week. These have been shown to be statistically significant factors in reducing the risk of breast cancer and its recurrence. You can read more about the impact of alcohol on breast cancer in our blog here.

Increasing fibre in your diet is important not only for cancer prevention but also for good gut function. Studies that are looking closely at gut function, gut immunity and microbiomes are showing emerging evidence in support for high fibre intake to reduce the risk of numerous diseases including diabetes, and overall cancer risk.