Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a consequence of bad lifestyle habits most people have adopted. Nutritionists say breast cancer is among the NCDs that can develop as a result of what one consumes. On the other hand, it can be also prevented if the right diet is consumed.
According to Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Complimentary Therapy in Remera, Kigali, it’s important first to rule out the factors that contribute to breast cancer before advising women on what to do, eat or avoid.
He says as nutritionists, they always advise women to stay away from a lifestyle which can play a big role in causing the disease, and at the same time encourage them to consume foods which prevent the disease.
“In most cases, nutrition-related factors are the ones that lead one to develop breast cancer. For instance, a mother who does not breastfeed their children properly has higher risk of developing breast cancer than that who breastfeeds exclusively,” he says.
Kamanzi adds that mothers who have embraced the technique of pumping the milk for their babies have a greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who breastfeed naturally.
He explains that this is so because women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles throughout their lives, thus less exposure to estrogen, which brings about some types of breast cancers. Additionally, he says breastfeeding makes breast cells more resistant to mutations that are capable of causing cancer.
Foods to stay away from
Rene Tabaro, a nutritionist at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, says there are foods that are likely to expose one to developing breast cancer. For instance, he points out that foods that contain carcinogen, agents that are capable of causing cancer including that of breast are not good to consume.
He explains that such foods include those that are roasted on a high temperature as well as those which are processed.
“Cooking meat at high temperatures such as grilling can create chemicals in such foods that may increase the risk of cancer,” he says.
For those who are fond of taking processed food, Tabaro advises that they should take some anticancer products such as mushrooms, herbal products, and green tea, among others.
He notes that one should also limit excessive consumption of milk as it can lead to breast cancer.
On the other hand, he advises that women should breastfeed their babies as much as they can. For instance, it’s advisable to breastfeed each breast for at least fifteen minutes. Also, mothers should not go beyond three hours before doing another breastfeeding session.
Kamanzi adds that women are not also advised to wean before two years. Though pumping milk from the breast for the baby is a new technique that aims at promoting exclusive breastfeeding, he says it also poses a high risk of one developing breast cancer.
Tabaro advises that women should moderate eating of roasted meat, and increase intake of citrus fruits which can increase the body capacity to fight against cancer. He says managing weight helps prevent one from getting breast cancer, as well as other non-communicable diseases.
Foods that help prevent dev’t of breast cancer
Generally, foods that contain phytochemical elements are good when it comes to preventing breast cancer, according to Joseph Uwiragiye, a nutritionist at University Teaching Hospital, Kigali (CHUK).
He notes that soy products are good because they contain the elements that fight against breast cancer.
“As nutritionists, we normally advise women to consume foods with anti-cancer elements,” he says.
However, Uwiragiye warns that when a woman has breast cancer already, it’s not advisable to consume soy products anymore.
He explains that this is because phytochemical elements are hard to be processed by the body; so if one takes them, the body will need more energy to deal with them.
“One should increase the intake of pro-vitamin A, C and E foods because they contain antioxidants that aid in fighting against diseases by neutralising free radicals. These foods also reduce the risk of cancer and are capable of preventing breast tumors,” he says.
Additionally, Uwiragiye notes fruits and vegetables should be consumed to prevent breast cancer. He explains that because of their fiber and phytochemical elements such as those in berries, whole grains, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes, they are all anti-carcinogenic since they are plant-based foods which act as natural defense system that provide protection against cancer including that of the breast.
A good example of foods that prevent breast cancer is mushroom, which he says contain ant-carcinogenic properties that prevent breast cancer cells from developing and spreading to other parts of the body.
“Mushrooms are good fighters against breast cancer as they contain receptors that aid in that. They can be prepared in powder or normal form,” he says.
According to Kamanzi, consuming yogurt is important as it protects one from diseases including breast cancer. This is because of its richness in active bacterial and lactic acid which have been proven to protect against breast cancer.
Vitamin A can also be found in carrots, oranges and all fruits that are of yellowish colour (beta carotene). Fruits or vegetable with such colour are good fighters of cancers, he says.