Diet and Breast Cancer
Healthy lifestyle choices may help lower the risk of different types of cancer and other health conditions, such as heart disease . 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 lowers the risk of breast cancer after menopause. However, only a few dietary factors appear to be related to breast cancer.
Studies show [21,150-153]:
- Eating fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of some breast cancers
- Drinking alcohol increases the 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, being overweight or obese modestly decreases breast cancer risk [63-66].
- After menopause, being overweight or obese increases breast cancer risk [63-65].
Although being overweight or obese may lower breast cancer risk before menopause, weight gain should be avoided. Gaining weight in adulthood increases the risk of breast cancer before and after menopause [75-78].
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.
Many studies show drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer .
Learn more about alcohol and breast cancer risk.
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating fruits may help lower breast cancer risk .
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 .
Eating vegetables may slightly lower the risk of some breast cancers [151-153].
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 .
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 lower the risk of some breast cancers [160-161].
A pooled analysis of data from over one million women in 18 studies found eating a diet high in carotenoids was linked to a decreased risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers . However, there was no benefit for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers .
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 [544-558,579-581]:
Dietary factors under study
Many dietary factors are under study for possible links to breast cancer risk. These include:
- Acrylamide (found in foods such as French fries)
- Dairy products
- Dietary fat
- Folic acid (folate)
- Vitamin D
Organic foods do not appear to lower the risk of breast cancer .
Organic meat and dairy
While some people prefer to eat organic meat, chicken and dairy, this does not appear to lower the risk of cancer .
At this time, scientific evidence does not show a link between the growth hormones or antibiotics used in conventional animal farming and breast cancer .
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 .
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 .
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.