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The Anticancer Diet

Eat to tip the odds in your favor

Specific Nutrients or Foods with an Anti-Cancer Connection continued...

Studies in rats have shown a reduction in the number and growth of breast tumors. And encouraging results from the first human flaxseed-breast cancer study were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December 2000. The study showed that adding a reasonable amount of flaxseed (the study used a muffin containing 25 grams of flaxseed) for about 38 days reduced tumor growth in people with breast cancer -- similar to benefits seen with the drug tamoxifen.

Further, one more recently published study found that premenopausal women whose diets contained the most lignans were 34% less likely to get breast cancer than women whose diets had the least lignans. (Other good sources of lignans include whole grains, strawberries, cantaloupe, onions, grapefruit, winter squash, and carrots.)

Bottom line: Although more research needs to be done, adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your smoothie, muffin, or meatloaf, a few times a week may be helpful. (At the least, it increases the fiber and the plant omega-3 fatty acid content of your diet.)

Soy. The scientific battle over whether soy increases or decreases breast cancer risks continued this year. Increasingly, experts are suggesting that early exposure to soy -- such as during the teenage years -- may help protect women from developing breast cancer later on. Many questions remain on breast cancer and soy, but studies that are going on now may shed more light on this issue.

Still, adding soy to your diet has been shown to lower cholesterol. It may also reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women; our government is spending about $10 million to research this potential benefit.

Bottom line: At the very least, soy foods provide high-quality protein. So a couple of servings per day seem like a good idea.

Dietary Fat's Cancer Connection

Dietary Fat. Several new studies support the theory that higher-fat diets may increase breast cancer risks. But while the relationship between a high-fat diet and breast cancer is still in question, that's not the case for other cancers. The American Cancer Society says high-fat diets are associated with an increased risk of colon, rectal, prostate, and endometrial cancers. It also says the consumption of meat -- especially red meat -- has been linked to colon and prostate cancers. And gram for gram, fat has more than twice the calories of carbohydrates and protein, meaning excessive amounts are likely to cause weight gain.

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