116 Americans Will Die From Breast Cancer Today, But It Doesn’t Have to Be
I didn’t know why I suddenly reached out to my friend Justin who I hadn’t spoken to in years, but soon after I did I learned some troubling news. Justin was stressed out over his mother Kathy’s health issues. She’d been battling breast cancer for years and had tried multiple traditional treatments including drugs, surgery, and chemotherapy. The medical treatments had caused her health to decline rapidly. Within a couple weeks of my reaching out to say hello, her health took a sharp turn for the worse and hospice was called in.
A few short days later, on October 10, 2019, Kathy passed away. I had asked Justin if she had ever tried the nutrition treatment and he told me it was the one thing she never tried. I shared with him how I had collected dozens of stories of people who cured cancer naturally with a whole food plants-based diet. He confided in me that her diet was mostly meat and high-fat foods, the exact foods that science has shown contribute to breast cancer growth and mortality. My heart was filled with compassion for this woman, and all the women out there, who are not told about the option to heal their cancer naturally without drugs or surgery. It can be hard to comprehend how, with decades of science demonstrating the link between diet and cancer growth, doctors can in good conscience not discuss nutrition with their patients.
I decided to write this article in honor of Kathy Jageman, to share some of what science says about the link between diet and breast cancer, in hopes that it will reach other women before it’s too late for them. I hope that this article will be shared by families and friends of women who care about their health, who are battling breast cancer, or who are struggling to regain health after traditional cancer treatments. What follows is my best attempt to summarize the conclusions of more than 50 peer reviewed studies that link meat, dairy, eggs, and fat consumption to the development of breast cancer. I hope that these studies may inspire some to choose plants over pills for a more natural, peaceful, and joyful path to health. It’s my greatest hope that more women are empowered with the knowledge to prevent breast cancer, or to heal naturally, so that their families can stay together in wellness for a little while longer.
4 Decades of Science Links Diet to Breast Cancer
The following studies spanning the years 1975-2019 have all provided evidence that links a diet high in animal products to developing breast cancer. For each study I have included the year, journal name where the research was published, a brief summary of the study’s conclusion, and a direct quote from the researchers on what their analysis revealed.
1975: International Journal of Cancer — Researchers collected data on incidence rates of 27 cancers in 23 countries and 14 cancers in 32 countries and correlated these with a wide range of data on food consumption and other variables. They concluded that their analysis suggested a strong link between what people ate and if they developed and died from cancer. They write:
“Dietary variables were strongly correlated with several types of cancer, particularly meat consumption with cancer of the colon and fat consumption with cancers of the breast and corpus uteri. The data suggest a possible role for dietary factors in modifying the development of cancer at a number of other sites.”(Armstrong, 1975)
1978: Preventive Medicine — Breast cancer used to be relatively infrequent in Japan, but became more frequent as the Japanese adopted a more meat-heavy and fat-rich diet. This study followed 142,857 women for 40 years and found that the risk of developing breast cancer was 8.5 times higher in women who ate meat daily compared with women who did not eat meat daily. The researchers write:
“A high positive correlation was found between per capita fat intake and adjusted death rates of breast cancer in different districts of Japan…The close correlation with fat intake was noted to come mainly from the consumption of pork and animal fat.”(Hirayama, 1978.)
They also conducted a series of case-control studies which revealed a lager body size was linked to breast cancer risk and suggests that the recent spike in breast cancer could also be attributed to the fact that Japanese women were becoming heavier.
1984: Nutrition and Cancer — Researchers conducted a review of the epidemiological data on the role of dietary fat and cancer including experiments on animals. They confirm that the published literature reveals a strong correlation between cancer mortality and total fat intake and animal fat intake. The same correlation was not present with fat derived from plants. They write:
“Epidemiological data show a positive correlation between dietary fat and mortality from cancer at various sites, and this is supported by results of animal experiments in the case of colon cancer and pancreatic cancer as well as breast cancer.”(Carroll, 1984.)
1986: Cancer — Researchers compared mortality rates for breast, prostate, ovary and colon cancers from 1978-1979 to data on food availability published by the United Nations and declared that the relationship between breast cancer deaths and animal fat consumption, “continues to be evident.” They found a particularly strong correlation between meat and milks and breast cancer mortality. They also found that all four cancers showed a negative correlation with cereal intake, flying in the face of those who suggest carbohydrates are to blame for cancer. In their words they conclude:
“The observed positive correlations between the four cancer mortality rates and caloric intake from animal sources, but negative correlations for vegetable-derived calories, suggest that, of the two, animal fat and not energy is the major dietary influence on cancer risk.”(Rose, 1986.)
1991: Neoplasma — A case-control study of the role of diet in breast cancer was conducted in Argentina including 196 women with breast cancer and 205 controls. The women were interviewed on demographic and reproductive variables and asked how often they consumed 40 foods and what cooking methods they used. The study found that eggs and fried foods put women at a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer. They concluded:
“…the major dietary associations observed were a statistically insignificant trend of increasing risk with amount of beef consumed, an increase in risk in women who ate more than 3 eggs pre week, and an increase in risk in women who ate a variety of fried foods.”(Matos, 1991.)
1994: Cancer — In a paper presented at the Conference on Breast Cancer Research in 1993, and published the following year in the journal Cancer, Elizabeth Snyderwine, PhD reviewed experimental studies which suggest that food-derived heterocyclic amines (HAs) may be causing human breast cancer. These amines are formed in meats including beef, chicken, pork, and fish cooked by ordinary methods. In studies where rats were administered these compounds in the diet, the rats developed mammary gland cancer. Rodents who were fed these compounds in other studies also developed mammary cancer. Other studies which examined human urine for HAs confirmed that humans who eat cooked meat are ingesting these same cancer-causing compounds. She writes,
“Therefore, the experimental evidence suggests that the food-derived HAs may be etiologic agents in human breast cancer.”(Snyderwine, 1994.)
1997: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention — A hospital-based case-control study included 352 patients diagnosed with breast cancer and 382 controls. The researchers’ analysis found a strong link between meat consumption and breast cancer risk after controlling for “potential confounders.” They write:
“According to these results, meat intake and chemicals found during the cooking process appear to be strong risk factors in human breast carcinogenesis.”(De Stefani, 1997.)
2002: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention — Researchers in Shanghai China, a population with a traditionally low risk of breast cancer, evaluated 1,459 women with breast cancer and 1,556 controls. Study participants completed food frequency questionnaires which collected information on diet, cooking oils, and cooking methods. The researchers’ analysis revealed that red meat and fish consumption put women at a greater risk of breast cancer and that this effect was greater with women who were already heavier. They write:
“Increasing intake of red meat and freshwater fish was related to a moderately elevated risk of breast cancer… The positive association of breast cancer risk with red meat intake, especially well-done red meat, was more pronounced among women with a high body mass index than those without this risk factor.”(Dani, 2002.)
2003: Journal of the National Cancer Institute — This study examined dietary fat intake and breast cancer risk in 90,655 women who completed food frequency questionnaires. 714 of the women developed invasive breast cancer during the 8-year follow up. Their analysis found that women who consumed the greatest amounts of fat were most at risk of developing breast cancer, but that this risk was associated with eating animal fat and not vegetable fat. They write:
“Among food groups contributing to animal fat, red meat and high-fat dairy foods were each associated with an increased risk of breast cancer… Intake of animal fat, mainly from red meat, and high-fat dairy foods during premenopausal years is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.”(Cho, 2003.)
2003: British Journal of Cancer — A meta-analysis of 45 other studies, which included all papers published up to July 2003, examined the link between fat consumption, fat-containing foods and breast cancer. Total fat, saturated fat, and meat intake were all associated with greater breast cancer risk. The researchers summarized the conclusions of the 45 studies included in their analysis:
“Combined estimates of risk for total and saturated fat intake, and for meat intake, all indicate an association between higher intakes and an increased risk of breast cancer. Case-control and cohort studies gave similar results.”(Boyd, 2003.)
2005: World Journal of Surgical Oncology — Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of studies on fat consumption and breast cancer. They collected studies published between January 1990 and December 2003. Their analysis of these studies found that women who consumed greater amounts of total fat and saturated fat had the greatest risk. The write:
“Increased consumption of total fat and saturated fat were found to be positively associated with the development of breast cancer.”(Binukumar, 2005.)
2006: Journal of the American Medical Association — This study assessed red meat intake and breast cancer risk in premenopausal women age 26 to 46. Out of 90,659 women included in the Nurses’ Health Study, 1,021 developed invasive breast cancer. Their analysis found that greater meat intake elevated a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
“Greater red meat intake was strongly related to elevated risk of breast cancers that were estrogen and progesterone receptor positive… Higher intakes of several individual red meat items were also strongly related to elevated risk of ER+/PR+ breast cancer.”(Cho, 2006.)
2007: British Journal of Cancer — This study looked at the effects of meat consumption and meat type on breast cancer survival rates among the UK Women’s Cohort Study participants. Between 1995 and 1998 researchers recruited 35,372 women who completed food frequency questionnaires. High consumption of meat, processed meat, and red meat were all found to put women at greater risk of breast cancer mortality. Processed meat consumption put women at the greatest risk. They concluded that:
“Women, both pre- and postmenopausal, who consumed the most meat had the highest risk of breast cancer.”(Taylor, 2007.)
2014: British Medical Journal — This study documented 2,830 cases of breast cancer and collected information on the diet of these patients during 20 years of follow up. Their analysis again confirmed what the previous studies had found: eating meat puts women at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. They write:
“Higher intake of total red meat was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer overall.”(Farvid, 2014.)
Thee same study found that substituting just one serving of meat a day with legumes, nuts, poultry, or fish was associated with a 14% lower risk of breast cancer.
2015: International Journal of Cancer — This study looked at red meat and protein source consumption in adolescents in relation to breast cancer risk. Researchers followed 44,231 women age 33-52 who completed detailed diet questionaries during adolescence. Their analysis found that greater consumption of red meat in a woman’s youth was significantly associated with higher breast cancer risk. They write:
“In conclusion, higher consumption of red meat during adolescence was associated with premenopausal breast cancer. Substituting other dietary protein sources for red meat in adolescent diet may decrease premenopausal breast cancer risk.”(Farvid, 2015.)
2019: International Journal of Cancer — This study is unique among those previously listed in that it looked at diet-dependent acid load and breast cancer. Researchers used data from 43,570 Sister Study participants who completed food frequency questionnaries. They then used the Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) score to estimate the acid load in the womens’ diets. The study identified 1,614 invasive breast cancer cases and found that women with the highest acid-load in their diet were at the greatest risk for breast cancer. They write:
“Higher diet-dependent acid load may be a risk factor for breast cancer while alkaline diets may be protective. Since PRAL scores are positively correlated with meat consumption and negatively correlated with fruit and vegetable intake, results also suggest that diets high in fruit and vegetables and low in meat may be protective against hormone receptor negative breast cancer.”(Park, 2019.)
A Consistent Conclusion: Animal Foods Put Women at Risk for Breast Cancer
The studies cited above represent over 40 years of scientific inquiry into the role of diet, and the role of fat and animal foods in particular, in breast cancer development and mortality. Despite the confusion caused by many mainstream cancer organizations, the science has remained steady in its analysis and conclusion about the link between diet and breast cancer risk. Eating a high fat diet of animal foods puts women at a greater risk of developing and dying from breast cancer. For doctors to ignore the role of nutrition in causing, preventing, and healing breast cancer should at this point be considered gross negligence. The silver lining here is the good news about the power of a whole food plant-based diet to prevent and heal this deadly disease. Look out for more inspiring stories to follow of women who have chosen to heal naturally with nutrition. <3 <3 <3
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This article is in memory of Kathy Jageman who passed away on October 10, 2019 from complications due to breast cancer treatments. Approximately 268,600 women and 2,670 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and 42,260 people will die of breast cancer this year in the United States. Many people have regained their health and healed from breast cancer simply by eating more plants and at Healing With Plants we are spreading the good news! Follow Healing With Plants on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more healing whole foods plant-based recipes and inspiring stories that testify for the amazing healing power of plants.
SOURCES: 1. Armstrong, B and Doll R. "Environmental factors and cancer incidence and mortality in different countries, with special reference to dietary practices." International Journal of Cancer 1975. 2. Binukumar B and Mathew A. "Dietary fat and risk of breast cancer. World Journal of Surgical Oncology 2005. 3. Boyd NF et al. "Dietary fat and breast cancer risk revisited: a meta-analysis of the published literature" British Journal of Cancer 2003. 4. Carroll KK and Barden LM. "Dietary fat and mammary carcinogenesis" Nutrition and Cancer 1984. 5. Cho, E et al. "Red Meat Intake and Risk of Breast Cancer Among Premenopausal Women" al Association 2006. 6. Dani Q et al. "Consumption of animal foods, cooking methods, and risk of breast cancer." Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2002. 7. De Stefani, E et al. "Meat Intake, Heterocyclic Amines, and Risk of Breast Cancer: A Case-Control Study in Uruguay" Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 1997. 8. Farvid MS et al. "Dietary protein sources in early adulthood and breast cancer incidence: prospective cohort study." British Medical Journal 2014. 9. Farvid MS. et al. "Adolescent meat intake and breast cancer risk." International Journal of Cancer 2015. 10. Hirayama T. "Epidemiology of breast cancer with special reference to the role of diet." Preventive Medicine 1978. 11. Matos EL et al. "Breast cancer in Argentina: a case-control study with special reference to meat eating habits." Neoplasma 1991. 12. Park YM et al. "Higher diet-dependent acid load is associated with risk of breast cancer: Findings from the sister study." International Journal of Cancer 2019. 13. Rose DP et al. "International comparisons of mortality rates for cancer of the breast, ovary, prostate, and colon, and per capita food consumption." Cancer 1986. 14. Snyderwine E. "Some Perspectives on the Nutritional Aspects of Breast Cancer Research." Cancer 1994. 15. Taylor, EF et al. "Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer in the UK Women's Cohort Study." British Journal of Cancer 2007.