Hawaii Health Guide - Plant Based Foods for Breast Cancer Prevention
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All Islands Health Talk Plant Based Foods for Breast Cancer Prevention

Plant Based Foods for Breast Cancer Prevention
Tomatoes, beans, spices, fresh herbs and other plant based foods contain known anti-cancer properties

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Editor’s note: Robin Roberts, 46, co-anchor of ABC's Good Morning America, received surgery Friday for her breast cancer and went home for recovery, news media reported. She revealed Tuesday that she has breast cancer.

Doctors said her prognosis should be good although it will take some time for doctors to study the affected tissue to have a full picture about the disease. We hope she will have a complete recovery and become cancer free for her next 50 years.

The news on Robert's breast cancer got highlighted by many major news outlets we believe not only because she is a popular TV anchor, but also because breast cancer is a potentially fatal disease that is expected in one in every eight American women in their life time.

Breast cancer is no fun to have. An estimated 40,460 women are expected to die from the disease in 2007 and 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, according to American Cancer Society.

We do not know how much Roberts knows about breast cancer prevention. But we believe that most cases of breast cancer can be prevented if we take care of our diet and follow a healthy lifestyle including adequate use of medical services.

Screening tools for breast cancer have been advanced. But the mortality is still high. Do we have to wait passively to be diagnosed with the disease or are we determined enough to prevent it from developing in the first place?

Start with the foods you eat to prevent breast cancer. Don't wait until it’s too late. We publish below a short piece to give our readers some ideas about what foods may be helpful in preventing breast cancer and other types of cancers although readers should know that diet is not the only factor that affects the risk of the disease.

These plant foods may help fight breast cancer

Many plant foods may help prevent breast cancer. But you need to know just because you eat cancer-preventative plant foods does not mean you are licensed to indulge yourselves to eat cancer promoting foods. You should reduce intake of certain foods such as meat that have been linked to elevated risk of breast cancer, particularly the type of estrogen receptor-sensitive breast cancer as a recent study suggests.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, a not-for-profit organization that invests millions of dollars each year on studies of natural ways to prevent cancer, foods that possess protective effects against breast cancer include beans, berries, cruciferous vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, garlic, grapes and grape juice, green tea, soy, tomatoes and whole grains.

Beans: Beans also known as legumes that can be used to prevent breast cancer include lentils and peas and many other varieties. Studies found that the active compounds include saponins, protease inhibitors and phytic acid. These substances can slow growth of tumor, or division of cancer cells or progression of tumors. Fiber in beans may also play a role in the protection against breast cancer.

Berries: Particularly strawberries and raspberries are rich in a compound known as ellagic acid, which possess the ability to prevent breast cancer as lab studies showed. The compound seems to serve as an antioxidant; helps deactivate certain carcinogens and slow the reproduction of cancer cells. Flavonoids in strawberries and phenolic compounds in blueberries are also protective against cancer.

Cruciferous Vegetables: These veggies including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale contain many active substances such as glucosinolates, crambene, indole-3-carbinol and isothiocyanates, which have showed protective effects against breast cancer and many other types of cancer.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: These vegetables including spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard green, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard are rich in fiber, folate and lost of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin in addition to saponins and flavonoids. Carotenoids in dark green leafy vegetables have been found inhibitory against the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells among others. Increased intake of dietary folate was associated with reduced breast cancer risk in women who consumed alcohol.

Flaxseed: Including flaxseed flour, flaxseed meal and flaxseed oil, flaxseed provides anticancer substances called lignans, a group of phytoestrogens, which in laboratory tests were found inhibitory against the formation of breast cancer although the efficacy of this plant seed varies with the variety and growing conditions. Some short term human studies showed consumption of flaxseed altered estrogen metabolism in ways that may indicated protection against breast cancer. Flaxseed oil, which comes without much lignans is high in one type of omega-3 fatty acid. Omega 3 fatty acids are under investigation for its possible anticancer properties.

Garlic: Garlic may be one of the well-known the foods that are believed to provide protection against cancer. Garlic along with its siblings such as onions, scallions, leeks and chives contain substances that are being studied for their anti-cancer properties including allicin, allixin, allyl sulfides, quercetin and other organosulfur compounds. Animal studies have already showed compounds in Allium vegetables are effective at slowing the development of cancers including breast cancer.

Grapes and Grape Juice: One of the famous compounds in grapes and grape juice is resveratrol, which has been proved to be inhibitory against the formation of tumors like breast cancers among several others. This compound is able to block the development of breast cancer at all three stages of the disease (initiation, promotion and progression). The substance is also present in red wine, but which contains alcohol, a chemical that has consistently linked to increased risk of certain cancers.

Green Tea: It contains polyphenols and flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants. In lab studies, green tea was able to slow or completely prevent development of breast cancer in addition to several other types. Green tea extract or isolated compounds showed in lab studies they can promote apoptosis of cancer cells. Recent human clinical trials showed regular consumption (3 or more cups per day) of green tea is linked to reduced recurrence of early breast cancer. But high amounts of green tea may interact with drugs that affect blood clotting such as aspirin.

Soy: The fact that Asian women who use soy more often than women in the West are less likely to have breast cancer suggests that something in the food is preventative against the cancer. Soy products including tofu, soymilk, soybeans, soynuts, miso, tempeh, soy burgers and soynut butter are rich in isoflavones, saponins, phenolic acids, phytic acid, phytosterlols and protein kinase inhibitors. Some phytoestrogens in soy are believed to influence the metabolism of estrogen and potentially inhibit the development of breast cancer. Preliminary studies showed diets high in soy may make breast cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Tomatoes: The well-known carotenoid in tomatoes is lycopene, a potential natural antioxidant that has showed anticancer properties in a number of studies. Lab studies showed several compounds found in tomatoes are able to stop the proliferation of several cancer cells including breast cancer cells. Tomatoes should be well cooked to have a maximal release of lycopene.

Whole Grains: While grains retain the bran and germ while refined grains have them removed. Whole grains are rich in a number of nutrients including fiber, vitamins, minerals and many phytochemicals such as antioxidants, phenols, lignans, phytoestrogens and saponins. Many studies showed that those who ate high amounts of whole grains were 34 percent less likely to have cancer compared to those who ate low amounts. Phytopchemicals such as lignans in whole grains may affect the development of hormone-dependent cancers including breast cancer.

The AICR cautions that single food or food substances are not as effective as a right combination of foods "a predominantly plant-based diet" because many bioactive components interact to provide extra cancer protection.


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