About The Buzz: What Dietary Factors Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence?

About the Buzz: What Dietary Factors Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence? Fruits And Veggies More Matters.org
TheBUZZ What Dietary Factors Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence?


Certain components of the diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and a number of factors are known to increase risk for the disease, including overweight/obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and alcohol intake. Along with that, numerous studies have demonstrated that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce risk of developing breast cancer. While these practices are important, less is known about what can be done to minimize the risk of cancer recurrence in breast cancer patients. Fortunately, research points to some dietary choices survivors can make to reduce the risk of cancer coming back. And, you guessed it, eating your fruits and veggies are at the core of those eating strategies.


A significant body of literature suggests that phytonutrients (compounds made by plants that protect the plant from UV radiation and insects) reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Phytonutrients are found in a wide range of foods, but high quantities are found in foods like olive oil, soy, citrus, apples, berries, tea, green leafy veggies, and bright orange and yellow fruits and veggies. Some phytonutrients may reduce tumor growth, in part by turning on genes for the body’s natural antioxidant defenses.1 An inflammatory environment also promotes cancer development and recurrence. Phytonutrients may mitigate inflammation, thereby blunting cancer cell growth and metastasis (spread of cancer cells).1 One observational study in over 3,000 breast cancer patients evaluated breast cancer recurrence risk and intake of carotenoids (compounds found in dark leafy greens and bright orange and yellow veggies and fruit) and found that women with the highest blood levels of carotenoids had the longest cancer-free survival rates.2 Another ongoing trial in breast cancer survivors suggests that a diet low in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal meat, and rich in whole grains, legumes and vegetables can reduce post-diagnosis weight gain (a common issue amongst breast cancer survivors) and reduce hormones that promote tumor growth.3 The analysis of this study is still underway, but offers promise for the role of a healthy diet, abundant in phytonutrients, in minimizing breast cancer recurrence.


We always recommend high intake of fruits and veggies, but this may be particularly important for breast cancer survivors. Aim to incorporate some kind of produce into every meal and snack. At each meal, half your plate should be covered in fruits and veggies and the brighter and richer in color, the better. Having trouble getting enough servings of produce into your diet? Take a look at our Tips on How to Cook With Fruits and Vegetables. We offer lots of ideas for simple swaps or additions for adding more produce to your diet. And if you’re lacking inspiration, try planning your weekly menu in advance by perusing our catalog of healthy, delicious Fruit & Veggie Recipes. You’ll be sure to find plenty of options loaded with phytonutrients that you and your family will love.


1 Braakhuis AJ, et al. Reducing breast cancer recurrence: the role of dietary polyphenolics. Nutrients (2016) 8:1-15.

2 Rock CL, et al. Longitudinal biological exposure to carotenoids is associated with breast cancer-free survival in the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomark Prev (2009) 18:486-494.

3 Villarini A, et al. Lifestyle and breast cancer recurrences: The DIANA-5 trial. Tumori (2012) 98:1-18.

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