Pro-Inflammatory Diet Increases Breast Cancer Risk

For decades, it has been clear that diet plays a role in overall health. But can diet also play a role in whether or not you develop certain conditions – or even cancer? According to Medical XPress, the answer is yes. In a preliminary study, researchers determined that females who eat a pro-inflammatory diet are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer.

Pro-Inflammatory Diet

A pro-inflammatory diet is one which can cause inflammation throughout the body. As described by The Conversation, a pro-inflammatory diet:

often includes high amounts of commercially baked goods, fried foods and fatty meats, and at the same time is low in fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.

While the diet is full of pro-inflammatory foods, it often lacks foods which could fight or reduce inflammation. Pro-inflammatory foods include:

  • Sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup
  • Vegetable and seed oils, such as soybean oil
  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread
  • Artificial trans fats, such as those found in margarine
  • Alcohol
  • Processed meats
  • White rice or white potatoes
  • Soda

The Research

Within the study, researchers wanted to understand the link between breast cancer and diet. To begin, researchers examined data from over 350,000 females. Next, they assigned each one an “inflammatory potential” score depending on self-reported diets. The researchers also took additional factors into account, such as drinking and exercise habits, as well as weight. Ultimately, those with a pro-inflammatory diet were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Additionally, those who ate anti-inflammatory diets were significantly less likely to receive a breast cancer diagnosis.

Researchers also determined that a pro-inflammatory diet could cause breast cancer to develop before menopause. In fact, those who developed the cancer before menopause were more likely to have worse diets. Although researchers cannot say that a pro-inflammatory diet causes breast cancer, the research does show that diet could raise the risk.

Ultimately, researchers gave a few suggestions to help females mitigate the risk of breast cancer development:

  • Eating healthy. By eating diets high in plants and anti-inflammatory foods, and low in refined carbohydrates, people can protect against breast cancer. Some research suggests that a Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of breast cancer. Interested in learning more about anti-inflammatory foods? Check out this helpful article from Harvard Health.
  • Limiting alcohol intake. In the past, alcohol has been linked to inflammation. More so, alcohol increases the risk for at least six forms of cancer. According to the CDC, these are breast cancer; liver cancer; larynx cancer; mouth and throat cancer; colon and rectum cancer; and esophageal cancer.
  • Exercising. Regular exercise can help reduce stress, control weight, and reduce the risk of developing certain diseases or conditions. To maintain your health, researchers recommend 150-300 minutes (2.5-5 hours) of moderate exercise weekly.

Breast Cancer

As the name suggests, breast cancer forms in cells within the breast. Although it can affect both males and females, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in females. Currently, skin cancer is the first. Doctors are not sure what causes breast cancer in most cases. However, in around 10% of diagnoses, BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations cause breast cancer. Additional risk factors include older age, a family history of breast cancer, alcohol consumption, hormone therapy, never having been pregnant or having a child at an older age, obesity, and radiation exposure.

Symptoms include:

  • Inverted nipples
  • Lump in breast tissue
  • Changes in breast size, shape, or appearance
  • Skin dimpling
  • Breast skin redness, peeling, scaling, crusting, flaking, or pitting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Breast pain or discomfort
  • Abnormal nipple discharge

Learn more about breast cancer.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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