October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; this October, what women need to be aware of is that they are not powerless against breast cancer. Mammograms for ‘early detection’ are not the only defense and do not even offer significant benefits. The scientific evidence shows that women do have the power to protect themselves against breast cancer with powerful preventive lifestyle measures. Staying slim and active, focusing on healthful natural foods, and avoiding the disease-causing foods of the Standard American diet are strategies women can use to win the war on breast cancer.
Most importantly, we must unleash the immune system’s special forces: G-BOMBS!
As I describe in my book Super Immunity, G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds) are the foods with the most powerful immune-boosting and anti-cancer effects. These foods help to prevent the cancerous transformation of normal cells, and keep the body armed and ready to attack any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells that may arise.
G – Greens
Green vegetables (the cruciferous family in particular) contain compounds with anti-cancer compounds and substances that protect blood vessels; they also promote healthy vision and reduce diabetes risk.1-3 Cruciferous vegetable phytochemicals inhibit a wide range of cancer-promoting cellular processes, including angiogenesis; the angiogenesis inhibitors found in in cruciferous vegetables prevent new blood vessel growth, which is needed for tumor growth and fat tissue growth.4-7 Eating cruciferous vegetables regularly is associated with decreased risk of breast cancer and has even been shown to increase survival in women after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
B - Beans
Beans are unique foods because of their very high levels of fiber and resistant starch; carbohydrates that are not broken down by digestive enzymes. The fiber and resistant starch in beans reduce total the number of calories absorbed from beans,8,9 reduce cholesterol levels, and are converted by healthy gut bacteria into many substances that protect against colon cancer. Eating fiber-rich beans regularly dramatically lowers colon cancer risk, and a recent analysis of 10 scientific studies has shown that the higher your fiber intake, the lower your risk of breast cancer.10-15
O – Onions
Onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, chives, and scallions not only lend great flavor to meals, they have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems, as well as anti-diabetic and anti-cancer effects.16-19 These vegetables are known for their characteristic (and eye-irritating) organosulfur compounds, which slow tumor growth and kill cancer cells – eating onions and garlic frequently is associated with reduced risk of digestive cancers.20,21 These vegetables also contain high concentrations of anti-inflammatory flavonoid antioxidants that contribute to their anti-cancer properties.16,22-24
M - Mushrooms
In one recent Chinese study, women who ate at least 10 grams of fresh mushrooms each day (which equates to about one button mushroom per day) had a 64% decreased risk of breast cancer!25 All types of mushrooms all have anti-cancer properties.26-32 Plus, mushrooms are unique in that they contain aromatase inhibitors – compounds that can block the production of estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors are thought to be largely responsible for the preventive effects of mushrooms against breast cancer. Even the most commonly eaten mushrooms (white, cremini, and Portobello) have high anti-aromatase activity.25,33,34 Mushrooms also contain powerful angiogenesis inhibitors.31,35,36 Keep in mind that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked: several raw culinary mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, and cooking mushrooms significantly reduces their agaritine content.37,38
B – Berries (and Pomegranate)
Berries’ plentiful antioxidant content helps to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, prevent DNA damage that leads to cancer, protect the brain against oxidative damage and stimulate the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.39-44 Berries and pomegranate are anti-angiogenic foods, and have anti-inflammatory effects that may protect against cancer and other chronic diseases.45-51 Pomegranate (similar to mushrooms) is one of the few foods that contain natural aromatase inhibitors – substances that inhibit the production of estrogen, which can reduce breast cancer risk.52
S - Seeds
Nuts and seeds are healthy fat sources that increase the absorption of nutrients in vegetables in addition to supplying their own spectrum of micronutrients including plant sterols (which help to reduce cholesterol), minerals, and antioxidants. Some seeds – sesame and flax in particular – are rich in lignans, plant estrogens that protect against breast cancer; in one fascinating study, women were given flaxseeds daily after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and reduced growth and increased death of their tumor cells was found after just 4-5 weeks.53
Instead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, make it Breast Cancer Prevention Month! Eat your G-BOMBS every day!
Image credit: Building Blocks Show (Flickr)
1. Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2010;341:c4229.
2. Higdon J, Delage B, Williams D, et al. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res 2007;55:224-236.
3. Stringham JM, Bovier ER, Wong JC, et al. The influence of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin on visual performance. J Food Sci 2010;75:R24-29.
4. Cavell BE, Syed Alwi SS, Donlevy A, et al. Anti-angiogenic effects of dietary isothiocyanates: mechanisms of action and implications for human health. Biochem Pharmacol 2011;81:327-336.
5. Kunimasa K, Kobayashi T, Kaji K, et al. Antiangiogenic effects of indole-3-carbinol and 3,3'-diindolylmethane are associated with their differential regulation of ERK1/2 and Akt in tube-forming HUVEC. The Journal of nutrition 2010;140:1-6.
6. Davis R, Singh KP, Kurzrock R, et al. Sulforaphane inhibits angiogenesis through activation of FOXO transcription factors. Oncol Rep 2009;22:1473-1478.
7. Kumar A, D'Souza SS, Tickoo S, et al. Antiangiogenic and proapoptotic activities of allyl isothiocyanate inhibit ascites tumor growth in vivo. Integrative cancer therapies 2009;8:75-87.
8. Bednar GE, Patil AR, Murray SM, et al. Starch and fiber fractions in selected food and feed ingredients affect their small intestinal digestibility and fermentability and their large bowel fermentability in vitro in a canine model. J Nutr 2001;131:276-286.
9. Muir JG, O'Dea K. Measurement of resistant starch: factors affecting the amount of starch escaping digestion in vitro. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;56:123-127.
10. Hamer HM, Jonkers D, Venema K, et al. Review article: the role of butyrate on colonic function. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2008;27:104-119.
11. O'Keefe SJ, Ou J, Aufreiter S, et al. Products of the colonic microbiota mediate the effects of diet on colon cancer risk. J Nutr 2009;139:2044-2048.
12. Bazzano LA, Thompson AM, Tees MT, et al. Non-soy legume consumption lowers cholesterol levels: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition, metabolism, and cardiovascular diseases : NMCD 2011;21:94-103.
13. Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control 2009;20:1605-1615.
14. Singh PN, Fraser GE. Dietary risk factors for colon cancer in a low-risk population. Am J Epidemiol 1998;148:761-774.
15. Dong JY, He K, Wang P, et al. Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2011.
16. Powolny A, Singh S. Multitargeted prevention and therapy of cancer by diallyl trisulfide and related Allium vegetable-derived organosulfur compounds. Cancer Lett 2008;269:305-314.
17. Ginter E, Simko V. Garlic (Allium sativum L.) and cardiovascular diseases. Bratisl Lek Listy 2010;111:452-456.
18. Taj Eldin IM, Ahmed EM, Elwahab HMA. Preliminary Study of the Clinical Hypoglycemic Effects of Allium cepa (Red Onion) in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Environ Health Insights 2010;4:71-77.
19. Galeone C, Pelucchi C, Levi F, et al. Onion and garlic use and human cancer. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2006;84:1027-1032.
20. Zhou Y, Zhuang W, Hu W, et al. Consumption of large amounts of Allium vegetables reduces risk for gastric cancer in a meta-analysis. Gastroenterology 2011;141:80-89.
21. Pierini R, Gee JM, Belshaw NJ, et al. Flavonoids and intestinal cancers. Br J Nutr 2008;99 E Suppl 1:ES53-59.
22. Slimestad R, Fossen T, Vagen IM. Onions: a source of unique dietary flavonoids. J Agric Food Chem 2007;55:10067-10080.
23. Miyamoto S, Yasui Y, Ohigashi H, et al. Dietary flavonoids suppress azoxymethane-induced colonic preneoplastic lesions in male C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. Chem Biol Interact 2010;183:276-283.
24. Shan BE, Wang MX, Li RQ. Quercetin inhibit human SW480 colon cancer growth in association with inhibition of cyclin D1 and survivin expression through Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway. Cancer Invest 2009;27:604-612.
25. Zhang M, Huang J, Xie X, et al. Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Int J Cancer 2009;124:1404-1408.
26. Martin KR, Brophy SK. Commonly consumed and specialty dietary mushrooms reduce cellular proliferation in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Exp Biol Med 2010;235:1306-1314.
27. Fang N, Li Q, Yu S, et al. Inhibition of growth and induction of apoptosis in human cancer cell lines by an ethyl acetate fraction from shiitake mushrooms. J Altern Complement Med 2006;12:125-132.
28. Ng ML, Yap AT. Inhibition of human colon carcinoma development by lentinan from shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes). J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:581-589.
29. Adams LS, Phung S, Wu X, et al. White button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) exhibits antiproliferative and proapoptotic properties and inhibits prostate tumor growth in athymic mice. Nutr Cancer 2008;60:744-756.
30. Lakshmi B, Ajith TA, Sheena N, et al. Antiperoxidative, anti-inflammatory, and antimutagenic activities of ethanol extract of the mycelium of Ganoderma lucidum occurring in South India. Teratog Carcinog Mutagen 2003;Suppl 1:85-97.
31. Cao QZ, Lin ZB. Antitumor and anti-angiogenic activity of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides peptide. Acta pharmacologica Sinica 2004;25:833-838.
32. Lin ZB, Zhang HN. Anti-tumor and immunoregulatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum and its possible mechanisms. Acta pharmacologica Sinica 2004;25:1387-1395.
33. Hong SA, Kim K, Nam SJ, et al. A case-control study on the dietary intake of mushrooms and breast cancer risk among Korean women. Int J Cancer 2008;122:919-923.
34. Shin A, Kim J, Lim SY, et al. Dietary mushroom intake and the risk of breast cancer based on hormone receptor status. Nutr Cancer 2010;62:476-483.
35. Lee JS, Park BC, Ko YJ, et al. Grifola frondosa (maitake mushroom) water extract inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor-induced angiogenesis through inhibition of reactive oxygen species and extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation. J Med Food 2008;11:643-651.
36. Chang HH, Hsieh KY, Yeh CH, et al. Oral administration of an Enoki mushroom protein FVE activates innate and adaptive immunity and induces anti-tumor activity against murine hepatocellular carcinoma. International immunopharmacology 2010;10:239-246.
37. Toth B, Erickson J. Cancer induction in mice by feeding of the uncooked cultivated mushroom of commerce Agaricus bisporus. Cancer Res 1986;46:4007-4011.
38. Schulzova V, Hajslova J, Peroutka R, et al. Influence of storage and household processing on the agaritine content of the cultivated Agaricus mushroom. Food Addit Contam 2002;19:853-862.
39. Stoner GD, Wang LS, Casto BC. Laboratory and clinical studies of cancer chemoprevention by antioxidants in berries. Carcinogenesis 2008;29:1665-1674.
40. Bazzano LA, Li TY, Joshipura KJ, et al. Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Fruit Juices and Risk of Diabetes in Women. Diabetes Care 2008;31:1311-1317.
41. Hannum SM. Potential impact of strawberries on human health: a review of the science. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2004;44:1-17.
42. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Willis LM. Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain aging and behavior. J Nutr 2009;139:1813S-1817S.
43. Cassidy A, O'Reilly EJ, Kay C, et al. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2011;93:338-347.
44. Devore EE, Kang JH, Breteler MM, et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol 2012.
45. Roy S, Khanna S, Alessio HM, et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berries. Free Radic Res 2002;36:1023-1031.
46. Khan N, Afaq F, Kweon MH, et al. Oral consumption of pomegranate fruit extract inhibits growth and progression of primary lung tumors in mice. Cancer Res 2007;67:3475-3482.
47. Toi M, Bando H, Ramachandran C, et al. Preliminary studies on the anti-angiogenic potential of pomegranate fractions in vitro and in vivo. Angiogenesis 2003;6:121-128.
48. Sartippour MR, Seeram NP, Rao JY, et al. Ellagitannin-rich pomegranate extract inhibits angiogenesis in prostate cancer in vitro and in vivo. Int J Oncol 2008;32:475-480.
49. Panchal SK, Ward L, Brown L. Ellagic acid attenuates high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome in rats. Eur J Nutr 2012.
50. Edirisinghe I, Banaszewski K, Cappozzo J, et al. Strawberry anthocyanin and its association with postprandial inflammation and insulin. Br J Nutr 2011;106:913-922.
51. Adams LS, Seeram NP, Aggarwal BB, et al. Pomegranate juice, total pomegranate ellagitannins, and punicalagin suppress inflammatory cell signaling in colon cancer cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemis ry 2006;54:980-985.
52. Adams LS, Zhang Y, Seeram NP, et al. Pomegranate ellagitannin-derived compounds exhibit antiproliferative and antiaromatase activity in breast cancer cells in vitro. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 2010;3:108-113.
53. Thompson LU, Chen JM, Li T, et al. Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer. Clin Cancer Res 2005;11:3828-3835.