Breast Cancer Myths & Truths

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month I thought I would dispel some myths and confirm some truths related to breast cancer. Please share this information with the many women you care about!

#1. Eating tofu and other soy foods increases my risk of breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence.

 Edamame

Edamame

True or False?

FALSE. Soybeans and soy products provide isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens, or plant chemicals that can have estrogen-like effects. Research has consistently shown that eating soy foods in moderate amounts does not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. And if you’re a breast cancer survivor, research also shows that 1 to 2 servings/day of soy foods, such as tofu or edamame, do not increase the risk of recurrence. Isoflavones also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so may actually work in ways to reduce cancer growth.

According to Marji McCullough, ScD, RD, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, epidemiologic studies that followed large populations of healthy women for many years either have shown no association between soy and breast cancer or a protective association from eating soy. However, information on the safety of soy supplements is inconclusive at this time, so it isn’t recommended that women with a history of breast cancer or a family history of breast cancer consume significant amounts of soy protein isolate in soy supplements and some energy bars.


#2. Exercise lowers my risk of breast cancer.

 Exercise

Exercise

True or False?

TRUE. We all know that exercise is good for our heart and can help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. But moderate physical activity also reduces the risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancers. What is moderate physical activity? At least 30 minutes per day, or 150 minutes per week. The good news is that 150 minutes of activity lowers breast cancer risk regardless of your weight -- All the more reason to get up and move!

#3. Being overweight increases my breast cancer risk.

True or False?

TRUE. Research done by the American Institute of Cancer Research shows that any amount of excess body fat raises the risk of breast cancer. And too much body fat is one of the strongest risk factors linked to postmenopausal breast cancer. It is estimated that about 1 in 5 cases of breast cancer are due to excess body fat.

#4. Eating Sugar causes breast cancer cells to grow faster.

True or False?

FALSE. Currently there is no link between sugar and cancer. All cells need sugar to live, but there is no evidence sugar “feeds cancer cells” over other cells. However, eating a lot of added sugar can contribute to weight gain and the excess body fat is linked to greater risk of breast cancer, but not sugar directly.

#5. A glass of red wine is good for my health.

True or False?

Well…  That depends on what part of your health we’re talking about. When it comes to breast cancer, the answer is no or FALSE. Research shows that even small amounts of alcohol on a regular or daily basis increase the risk of breast cancers and the risk increases with greater amounts of alcohol. Some research does show that small amounts of alcohol may be beneficial for heart health, but this research is ongoing and the American Heart Association cautions that if you do not drink, don’t start. For those women who do drink red wine or any other alcohol, limit your intake to one alcoholic beverage per day.

Sources: American Institute for Cancer Research; Today's Dietitian

For your personalized nutrition consultation, contact    Jill West, RDN at 925-310-5545