Can These Diets Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

In the United States, there is a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. Though cancer can be a scary topic, there are ways to avoid the disease as much as possible. It may be as simple as examining your own diet and making changes to what’s on your plate. More specifically, changing your diet may help reduce your risks. There are three main diets that have been studied to analyze their effects on the risk of breast cancer: The Wester Diet, the Prudent Diet, and the Mediterranean Diet.

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The Western Diet

The U.S. population has adopted this diet for years now; you may even say it’s what keeps us culturally apart from other countries. This diet consists of a high intake of fatty and sugary products, refined grains, and red and processed meats. One study showed that pre- or postmenopausal women, who adhere to the Western dietary pattern, have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Now, let’s pause for a second. What role does sugar play with breast cancer risk? One study investigated 19 different publications on dose responses between carbohydrate intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of breast cancer. They found that glycemic load and carbohydrate intake both had a positive association with breast cancer among postmenopausal women. The glycemic load included carbohydrates, sugary beverages, desserts, and refined-breads! The glycemic load estimates how much food can raise your blood sugar whereas the glycemic index measures how fast or slow food can increase your blood glucose levels. 

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So, why is this important? Researchers discovered that both glycemic load and carbohydrate intake had a positive association with breast cancer among postmenopausal women. Those who consume a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates may be insulin resistant. Some cancers are related to insulin resistance, but there is unclear evidence to show a direct link between insulin resistance and breast cancer. 

The Prudent Diet

The prudent diet controls the amount of fat and cholesterol consumed. The diet includes low-fat dairy options, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and juices. The prudent diet has been used in studies to determine its effect on a specific disease. However, one study analyzed how this diet played a role in African American women. After conducting the investigation, the prudent diet was found to be weakly associated with lowering the risk of breast cancer overall. In the same study, premenopausal women and women with a body mass index of less than 25 kg had a significantly lower risk when withholding the prudent dietary habit. 

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet consists of a plentiful amount of plant sources—fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, potatoes, nuts and seeds, olives, olive oil, fish, low-to-moderate amounts of dairy, and poultry, and limited amounts of red meats. This diet consists of foods high in phenolic compounds that play an important role in cancer prevention and treatment. Additionally, the olives and olive oil components have antioxidants properties that help during oxidative stress (infection, inflammation, ultraviolet radiation, etc.). Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the oxidants and antioxidants systems. On several occasions, the food components of the Mediterranean diet showed to reduce the risk of breast cancer. 


A diet with high saturated fats, sugars, and processed foods has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. There are alternative diets that are more plant-based (Prudent and Mediterranean diet) that decrease the risk of breast cancer. Therefore, based on dietary recommendations trading the Western dietary pattern for the Mediterranean dietary pattern might be one of the best choices you can make!


Written by: Kimberly Rodriguez