Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else think Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a little bogus? I mean, every October, we’re bombarded with pink ribbons and pink tee shirts and assorted other pinkwashed merchandise, as though, gosh, if we were only a little bit more aware of breast cancer, or put another pink ribbon on something, then this horrible disease would magically disappear.
No offense to anyone, but I’m plenty aware of breast cancer. Not only do I know people who have it, but even though I’m only in my thirties, I’ve already had two breast cancer scares, and have the biopsy scars to prove it. So truly, I don’t need to think about breast cancer more. And for heaven’s sake, I don’t need to be tempted with breast-cancer-promoting crap food like “Breast Cancer Awareness cookies.” (I can’t make this stuff up—found at Whole Foods, no less!)
If I sound a little teed off, well, it’s because I am.
Because what I need isn’t more pink to remind me how scary breast cancer is (although I do respect that the proceeds from some pink products go to breast cancer research). And I especially don’t need that pink plastered all over the very foods that make us sick.
No, what I need is to do something about it. To take steps to reduce my risk, and help other amazing women reduce theirs. In short, I want to save the ta-tas!
But what can you do to reduce your risk? Isn’t breast cancer an indiscriminate killer, a specter against which we’re virtually defenseless?
Au contraire, ma chère. While not all cases of breast cancer (or recurrence) can be prevented—and no one has ever done anything to “deserve” breast cancer—it turns out that there are plenty of steps we can take to reduce our risk. They aren’t guarantees, and the data supports some better than others, but together, I believe they can help put the odds in our favor.
Better yet, these steps don’t involve buying a single pink ribbon cookie. Although some do involve vegetables. Go figure. 😉
So while I’m no doctor—and you should probably check with yours before making major lifestyle changes—every Monday this month I’ll highlight a simple way to reduce your breast cancer risk, along with easy-peasy recipes to make better breast health dee-licious.
Without further ado, here’s numero uno:
Go play in the produce aisle
Or hit up a produce auction. Or go wild harvesting veggies from your garden. Whatever you choose, the data is clear: Eating more fruits and vegetables, both in terms of quantity and variety, is associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer.
For example, an evaluation of data from 83,234 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study revealed that premenopausal women who consumed 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables per day had a 23% lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate fewer than 2 servings per day.¹ Not bad for simply eating healthy! I mean, can you imagine if there were a pill that dropped breast cancer risk by 23% and had only positive side effects? Every woman in America would be taking it! And the reduction in risk was even more pronounced for those with a family history of breast cancer (71% reduction in risk) and those who consumed 1+ alcoholic drinks per day (47% reduction in risk).
But wait, there’s more. A 2009 study examining the connection between BRCA mutations, breast cancer, and diet found that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables was associated with a 73% reduced risk of breast cancer compared to eating a narrow range of fruits and vegetables for BRCA carriers.²
Further, a case-control study of Chinese women found that breast cancer risk declined with increasing intake of selected dark green vegetables, Chinese turnips, dark yellow-orange vegetables, and fruits (with the exception of watermelon and apples).³
And these are just a sampling of the studies suggesting a protective effect of fruits and vegetables against breast cancer. (In fairness, some studies show non-significant trends or null results.) Given that the “side effects” of eating more fruits and veggies are losing weight and feeling better, well, pass the peas, please!
Why might fruits and veggies be protective against breast cancer? For starters, they’re packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals, from the flavanoids in garlic and onions to the indoles and isocyanates in broccoli and cabbage.⁴ Fruits and veggies also have vitamins and minerals crucial to good health, and they’re high in fiber, which helps the body flush out excess estrogen. (Having too much estrogen can be like pouring gasoline on a fire for some types of breast cancer cells and their precursors.)
So from apples to zucchini, be sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day—the more the merrier!
Some quick and easy recipes to get you started:
Check back next Monday for another breast-cancer-busting (heh) prevention strategy!References