Preventing breast cancer: a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables

Let’s follow up on our recent post showing adolescent diet high in vegetable protein or nuts was associated with reduced risk of premalignant breast lesions in young adult women. (see previous post: Peanuts and lower risk of breast cancer)  This generated much interest and the potential of peanut butter to be of such major health benefit was noted by many. Of course peanuts are one of the leading sources of vegetable protein in modern US diets. We continue to explore ways to build on these findings to better inform prevention of the most common cancer diagnosed among women.
 A new report shows protection against breast cancer with diets that had higher intake of fruits and vegetables (a plant based diet) when consumed in midlife. The new report from the California Teachers Study followed 91,779 women for up to 14 years. 4140 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.  A diet with higher plant based food intake gave significant reduction in risk of breast cancer. This study is consistent with the combined data from 20 prospective cohorts that included 993,466 women who were followed for 11 to 20 years and was published earlier this year (see paper). Over 24,000 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed. Focusing on receptor status of the tumors, the investigators showed that higher intake of fruit and vegetables was related to lower risk of estrogen receptor negative breast cancer. Women in the top 20% of the population for intake of fruit and vegetables had a significant 18% reduction in risk of estrogen receptor negative breast cancer compared to the lowest 20% of the population.
Given we have fewer successful treatment options for estrogen receptor negative breast cancer the potential to prevent this subtype of disease becomes even more important.

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