Nutrition and Exercise for Breast Cancer Survivors

If you have had breast cancer, take the recommendations we’ve outlined especially seriously. Current data suggest that diet and exercise choices can influence your chances of recurrence and survival. To recap, here are some key recommendations and findings:

Maintain a normal weight, and be as lean as you can for that weight. In the WINS study of diet and weight loss, recurrence of breast cancer – including estrogen-receptor-negative cancer – was reduced by 24 percent. Weight control after a breast cancer diagnosis is associated with better survival.

Exercise daily. In some observational exercise studies, death rates from breast cancer are reduced by about 50 percent in people who exercise daily.

Take four tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily. In one study, flaxseed meal given to women with breast cancer slowed the growth of their breast cancer. Other studies have suggested that flaxseed also suppresses estrogen-negative breast cancer.

Get your vitamin D level checked, and supplement it if necessary. Women with higher levels of vitamin D have a substantially lower risk of developing breast cancer. Women with breast cancer seem to have better survival if their Vitamin D levels fall near the top of the normal range.

Eat more whole grains, vegetables, beans, fish and poultry, and minimize refined grains and sugars. Following a Mediterranean diet that is high in omega 3 fatty acids appears to suppress Her-2 neu (a protein that plays a role in breast cancer aggressiveness), which may enhance the effectiveness of some medications, such as Herceptin. Diets higher in fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish, and lower in meat, sweets and refined grains, also have been shown to improve survival for patients with colon cancer.