The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Diet and Breast Cancer

Healthy lifestyle choices are linked to a lower risk of different types of cancer and other health conditions, such as heart disease [26]. A healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet.

Learn more about healthy behaviors and breast cancer risk.

Learn about healthy behaviors and breast cancer survival.

Diet and breast cancer risk

Maintaining a healthy weight is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer after menopause. However, only a few dietary factors appear to be related to breast cancer.

Studies show [21,159-162]:

  • Eating fruits and vegetables is linked to a decreased risk of some breast cancers
  • Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer

We also know some foods and beverages are not related to breast cancer risk. Others are under study for possible links to breast cancer.

This section gives a summary of the research on dietary factors and breast cancer risk.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese affects breast cancer risk differently before and after menopause.

  • Before menopause, women who are overweight or obese have a modestly decreased risk of breast cancer [66-70].
  • After menopause, women who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of breast cancer [66-68,70].

Although women who are overweight or obese may have a lower risk of breast cancer before menopause, weight gain should be avoided. Women who gain weight in adulthood have an increased risk of breast cancer before and after menopause [80-84].

Most breast cancers occur after menopause. Any weight you gain before menopause you may carry into your postmenopausal years, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight throughout your life.

Learn more about body weight, weight gain and breast cancer.

Alcohol

Many studies show drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer [21].

A pooled analysis of data from 53 studies found women who had 2-3 alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who didn’t drink alcohol [21].

Learn more about alcohol and breast cancer risk.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits

Eating fruits may be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer [159].

A meta-analysis that combined the results of 15 studies found women who ate the most fruit had a slightly lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who ate the least fruit [159].

Vegetables

Eating vegetables may be linked to a lower risk of some breast cancers [160-162].

A pooled analysis of data from 20 studies found women who ate the most vegetables had a lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer (but not estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer) compared to women who ate the least vegetables [160].

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are natural orange-red food pigments found in fruits and vegetables (such as melons, carrots and sweet potatoes).

A diet high in foods that contain carotenoids may be linked to a lower risk of some breast cancers [169-170].

A pooled analysis of data from 18 studies found eating a diet high in carotenoids was linked to a decreased risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers (but not estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers) [171].

Learn more about fruits, vegetables, carotenoids and breast cancer risk.

Dietary factors not related to breast cancer

Studies show these dietary factors do not increase the risk of breast cancer [589-602,607,631-633]:

  • Caffeine (including coffee and tea)
  • Sugar (including sugar-sweetened beverages)

Learn about other factors proven to be unrelated to breast cancer.

Dietary factors under study

Many dietary factors are under study for possible links to breast cancer risk. These include:

Organic foods

Research shows organic foods are no more nutritious or better for your health than foods farmed by conventional methods [26].

Some people prefer to eat organic foods. However, people who eat organic meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables don’t appear to have a lower risk of breast cancer than people who don’t eat organic foods [26,353].

Organic meat and dairy

Scientific evidence doesn’t show a link between the growth hormones or the antibiotics used in conventional animal farming and breast cancer [26].

Learn more about meat and breast cancer risk.

Learn more about dairy and breast cancer risk.

Organic fruits and vegetables

Organic plants are grown without the use of conventional pesticides. Conventional fruits and vegetables may have low-levels of pesticide residue.

According to the American Cancer Society, the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweigh any health risks linked with pesticide residue [26].

Fruits and vegetables (both organic and conventional) are part of a healthy diet. Buying fresh (or frozen) conventional produce and thoroughly washing and rinsing before eating is always a good practice [26].

Learn more about fruits and vegetables and breast cancer risk.

Learn more about pesticides and breast cancer risk.

It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle

Everyone can benefit from a healthy lifestyle.

Being active, eating a balanced diet and making healthy lifestyle choices can be physically and mentally rewarding at any point in life.

Updated 03/02/21

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