A recent study in the JADA examined the association between foods and oxidative DNA damage [djuric Z et al JADA 1998;98-524]. If confirmed by larger studies, these results would suggest that specific dietary changes to reduce oxidative DNA damage could possibly reduce the risk of breast cancer. Specifically, this study showed that fatty meats were associated with more DNA damage whereas the women who consumed more cooked vegetables had less DNA damage. It is important to note that this study was conducted using foods and not antioxidant food supplements.
It is already well established that a diet higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in fatty meats is likely to reduce many types of cancer, including breast cancer [Willett W Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1162S]. Djuric’s study suggests that protection against oxidative stress could also play a role. Additionally, women who eat more fruits and vegetables and less fatty foods usually gain less weight over time. A weight gain of 22 pounds in adulthood was recently found to be significantly associated with breast cancer in postmenopausal women [Huang Z et al JAMA 1997;278:1407]. Weight gain likely increases breast cancer because it elevates estradiol levels after menopause. Higher levels of estradiol throughout life are a well established risk factor for breast cancer. This may be one reason that early menarche and delayed birth of the first child increase the risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol consumption also generates free radicals in the body and is a risk factor for developing breast cancer [Schatzkin A et al N Engl J Med 1987;316:1169]. However, alcohol also elevates estrogen levels so it is not clear which mechanism is more important in the development of breast cancer.
The bottom line: A lowfat plant-based diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, limited alcohol and regular exercise will likely help prevent breast cancer by reducing oxidative DNA damage and excessive estrogen levels.
• Dr. Jay Kenney, PhD, RD, is a Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center and on the Board of Directors for the National Council Against Health Fraud.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.