Should I take extra doses of antioxidants?
Not if you’re undergoing radiation therapy. Although antioxidants occur naturally in a healthy diet, some experts believe that taking megadoses during cancer treatment could interfere with the way radiation works. (Antioxidants work to scavenge free radicals; radiation generates free radicals, which kill rapidly dividing cancer cells.) If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, avoid antioxidant supplements unless you’ve consulted with your doctor or your naturopathic oncologist, but do continue eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (cherries, blueberries, blackberries, red and yellow peppers); they don’t contain antioxidants in megadoses and won’t interfere with treatment.
Will any foods reduce my risk of breast cancer?
Eating a healthy, varied diet based on whole foods remains the best way to prevent cancer and keep it from recurring, says Beth Reardon, R.D., director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. It’s also important to include as many colors as possible—colorful plant foods contain a variety of cancer-fighting pigmented compounds called polyphenols. It’s also smart to keep your fat intake down (aim for less than 35 grams per day, of which no more than 2 grams should be saturated fat), adds Alschuler, since there’s a direct link between breast cancer and extra weight. More specifically, minimize your saturated fat intake from red meat and high- fat dairy and trans fats from processed baked goods, Reardon says. She also recommends flaxseeds (the ground seeds, not the oil, are rich in lignans, a form of phytoestrogen that the body metabolizes into weak forms of estrogen, which in turn displace the aggressive natural estrogens that stimulate breast cancers), mushrooms (they contain a form of linoleic acid, which appears to inhibit the activity of aromatase, an enzyme the body uses to make estrogen) and some unprocessed non-GMO soy (which can inhibit blood vessel growth in hormone-dependent breast cancer tumors).