Lifestyle and Breast Cancer Risk
Current estimates suggest that increasing physical activity and decreasing alcohol consumption and body fat could prevent 38% of breast cancer in post-menopausal women in the UK. Women meeting the World Cancer Research Fund prevention guidelines show a 60% reduction in breast cancer compared to women meeting none.
The first, and most important, is the Mediterranean diet. It is based on the dietary patterns of people living in olive growing areas around the Mediterranean up until the 1960s:
- High intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts.
- High intake of minimally processed cereals.
- High intake of monounsaturated fats coupled with low intake of saturated fats.
- Moderately high intake of fish.
- Low to moderate intake of dairy products.
- Low intake of meat products.
- Regular but moderate intake of alcohol.
The second diet, which may have some anti-cancer properties, is the Nordic diet. Although it is high in fat and sugar, there is a range of traditional products with anticipated health-promoting effects:
- Rye bread
- Root vegetables.
It seems sensible to adopt as many of these foods into your diet as possible especially as both of these diets are also associated with weight loss, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes) and reduced risk of diabetes.
Again, it seems sensible to limit your sugar intake and try to stick to unrefined carbohydrates where possible as these tend to have a lower glycaemic index (GI).
After a diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, more robust studies found a link between low circulating vitamin D and breast cancer recurrence.
We get most of our vitamin D from our own skin, which makes the vitamin with the help of sunlight. We can also get vitamin D from our diet. As many of us wear sunscreen all year round, we can have low circulating vitamin D levels without knowing it. It is sensible to get your vitamin D levels checked (especially if you have had breast cancer) and then use a supplement if necessary to get back into the ‘normal-range’.