Breast Cancer and Diet: The Facts and the Myths
by Valerie Kendall
Cancer and diet have long been linked, both in myth and in fact. Some studies influence people to believe that changing their diet will change their chances of getting cancer. Other studies claim that an alteration in ones diet will lead to the elimination of cancer altogether. But, overall meta-research shows that cancer and diet may be linked, but that does not mean that one is caused by the other.
Let's be honest here - there is no diet that can cure cancer. Anyone who tells you so is foolish. It would be a wonderful world indeed if the addition of one simple food item would make the world cancer-free, but that isn't the case. There are also no foods that will prevent cancer - in other words, by adding to your diet, you will never get cancer. That simply is not true.
The good news is that there are some dietary additions that can reduce the risk of cancer, the chance of a cancer coming back, and the type or level of cancer you do get. A diet that is rich in particular food items can make you healthier.
Numerous studies regarding cancer and diet have been undertaken over the past few decades. Cornell University found that there was a correlation between the rates of death and survival length (of almost a decade) in patients who had made changes to their diet.
Another study followed several thousand breast cancer victims over a period of more than a decade. More than half the patients had cancer that had metastasized (spread to other parts of their body). In these cases, only one in five survived more than five years. For patients without metastasized cancer, more than eight in ten survived long-term.
In this study, the patient groups were differentiated by the types of food they ate. One group ate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and the other group did not do this. The omega-3 group experienced a lower rate of death. This, of course, does not mean that fish prevents cancer, but it does point to some sort of correlation between something found in fish and poultry and the likelihood of surviving cancer.
Another survey of 2400 people was conducted by the National Cancer Institute. 33% of these were women with breast cancer and who consumed a diet that was low in fat. Over a period of five years, their rate of cancer recurring dropped by almost a half.
These studies are useful, however they are not conclusive. They often show that there is a link between diet and cancer, but there is no proof of one being caused by the other. Some people believe that this data is pure rubbish, others believe it points to science that we just don't know about yet. One thing is clear, though, almost everyone believes that an overall healthier diet and lifestyle changes will lead to a lower risk of cancer-related death.
Some research has been undertaken that includes the addition of vegetables and fruits, and their link to cancer. It seems that again there is a link between this type of diet and a cancer-free life, but the reason is unclear. Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of antioxidants which are known to attack the free radicals that go through all of our blood streams. These free radicals are potentially cancer-causing, and the addition of antioxidants somehow neutralizes them. But if that is the reason why a diet of healthful fruit and vegetables is somehow linked to a lack of cancer, is unknown.
Fat is also considered, by many, a contributor to cancer-related deaths. Some people insist that by reducing the fat which is stored in estrogen, cancer chances will be reduced. This insistence can not be true because fat is not a direct link to cancer. If it were, anyone who was obese would also be ridden for cancer. Alternatively, anyone who ate a diet high in fat would be cancer-ridden as well.
There is plenty of evidence that shows that if you are looking to live a life that is free of cancer, you should eat a diet that is healthy. There is no doubt about that. Some of the most important ways to change your life for the better is to pay attention to your diet and lifestyle and improve your health overall. Almost one in ten women will get breast cancer in their lives and by improving women's lifestyles, hopefully that number will be reduced.