Breast Cancer Spread: Can Dieting Reduce Risk?

overweight obese woman

What You Need to Know: Women with an aggressive subtype of breast cancer known as “triple negative” may be able to reduce the chance of disease spreading distantly by reducing their calorie intake. But… the data thus far is based on mice (and not human) studies.

Well, it does work for mice: The study published in the Journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, used mice models to investigate the impact of diet on triple negative disease, which is found in about one in five women with breast cancer. It found that when mice were given 30 per cent fewer calories, changes occurred in the body in the way cells were regulated. Mice on restricted diets produced more protective proteins in the tissues around the tumour, which make it harder for cancer to spread, the study by Thomas Jefferson University found.

My Take: We know that in among some groups of women (for example, women who are post-menopausal), obesity increases the risk of breast cancer. Unfortunately, treatment such as chemotherapy (and steroids) can cause weight gain. This weight gain can lead to worse cancer outcomes. Human trials are examining the impact of calorie restriction on outcomes. For now, I advise my patients to try to achieve, and maintain, an optimal Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20 to 25. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.


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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

2 thoughts on “Breast Cancer Spread: Can Dieting Reduce Risk?”

  1. There isn’t nearly enough research being done into triple negative breast cancer—thank you for reporting on this.

  2. Agreed. I will try to provide more information on this aggressive subtype of breast cancer. Hopefully, the molecular characterization of breast cancer will allow us to better focus on this particularly troublesome subtype. Thank you for reading, and for commenting!

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