Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I have been
asked by The Big Pink campaign to help to raise awareness! I thought I would summarise
what we know about diet and breast cancer so that you can help to spread the
word and keep more boobs cancer-free!
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and one in
eight women will develop the disease in their lifetime … ONE in EIGHT! That is
a lot. When we look at the research, we estimate that around 40% of breast cancers
could be prevented with dietary and lifestyle changes.
THAT SAID, my key
message is this: look after your body as best you can and know that if things
do go wrong, you did your best; so don’t waste your energy blaming yourself.
When I worked in cancer care, I had the pleasure of
supporting lots of wonderful women through their breast cancer treatment and
one of the things came up all the time was guilt and remorse that they had
caused themselves to get cancer.
I repeat: look after
your body as best you can and know that if things do go wrong, you did your
best; so don’t waste your energy blaming yourself.
A really amazing paper was published this year that summarises
all the evidence we have so far on diet and breast cancer (http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/citedby/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071715-051004
Here are the key messages:
Drinking three or more units per day of alcohol
is strongly associated with increased risk of breast cancer when compared with not
drinking at all.
Take home message: the government have been right for ages,
so try your best not to drink more than three units of alcohol per day and
definitely try to have plenty of alcohol free days in the week. I am currently
partaking in SOBERtober (not binge drinking in October, i.e. not more than 3
units) in preparation for NOvember (no alcohol at all for the whole of
November), this is mainly in preparation for DRUNKcember … but it is all about
The more vegetables you eat, the better.
Again, the nutritional research has been right all along:
the more vegetables you eat the lower your risk of breast cancer, with a
reduction in risk of 18% when we compare high intakes of vegetables to low
intakes of vegetables. Interestingly, the evidence isn’t as strong for fruit;
but fruit is excellent for other health reasons anyway so gobble it all up.
Obviously aim for at least 5-a-day. The easiest
way is to make sure you have two portions of veg with your lunch and dinner and
have one vegetable based snack like carrot sticks and hummus, or avocado and
rice cakes, or sundried tomatoes, or sugar snap peas!!!
(Sure…this is how I prepare my vegetable snacks every day …
with all my spare time)
Be a healthy weight for your height (this is
especially helpful in preventing breast cancer in post-menopausal women).
I mean sure, “just be a healthy weight”, I only need to say
it and then you can do it, right? WRONG!
Losing weight is tough if you are overweight, so please have
a read of my earlier blog posts on weight loss if you are struggling (Secrets
to Weight Loss
My key message on weight loss is always that you need to
address your relationship with food before you can expect to lose weight, and
not put so much pressure on yourself or feel guilty. We have this idea now that
unless we are ‘clean eating’ or on a ‘diet’ we should be ashamed. Have a read
of this (‘Ideal’
) and try to be compassionate to yourself. The kinder you are
to yourself and the less you tell yourself you’re a failure for not being a
size 8, the more you will start naturally loving and caring for yourself
through eating well and exercising … because it makes you feel great!
Exercise… one in 8 cases of breast cancer could
be prevented by doing 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week.
Try to include it in your daily routine where possible, I
promise you will feel better for it. Stick at it, it will be worth it.
Lots of people will tell you things about breast cancer,
such as dairy causes breast cancer. The evidence shows that people who have
dairy products in their diet actually have a lower risk of breast cancer. You
may also hear about plastic bottles, organic food, sweeteners, underwired bras
There is no convincing evidence that any of these things are
linked with cancer. If you focus on the big four points above, you will not
only significantly reduce your risk of breast cancer but also all other
lifestyle associated diseases like diabetes, heart disease and all other
To donate to The Big Pink Campaign, please click here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/breastcancercare/thebigpink17