5 Foods That Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer (and 5 that Reduce it)

Ask any woman, and she probably knows someone who has had breast cancer, or she has had it herself. It is downright scary. While breast cancer rates have decreased marginally over the past decade (possibly due to the decrease in prescribed hormone replacement therapy), they remain high. In fact, one in eight  women in the United States (about 12 percent) will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Men are not immune either. While lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is significantly lower in men, about 2,140 cases are diagnosed annually, leading to approximately 450 deaths. Death rates in women have also dropped since 1990.

Still, even with dropping diagnosis and death rates, breast cancer remains a significant issue, particularly for women. It is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in American women with the second highest death rate for females behind lung cancer.


While the causes of breast cancer remain unknown, many factors may increase a woman’s risk of developing it. These factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Family history
  • Race
  • Certain medications
  • Age
  • Birth control pill use
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet in general as well as certain foods

Controlling Your Risk

While you can’t control many of your risk factors for developing breast cancer, you can change the behaviors that increase your risk.

Foods that Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer

So what foods should you avoid that cause an increased risk of breast cancer? Here are 5 top foods:

1. Sugar

A 2007 Italian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a correlation between increased intake in foods with a high glycemic index and breast cancer. Sugar is just one of many high glycemic index food, including baked goods, candy, pasta, white rice, and other refined carbohydrates.

Foods with a high glycemic index are those that have a significant impact on blood sugar. As blood glucose rises, the body releases the hormone insulin. When insulin is high in the blood, it also increases the levels of circulating free estrogen. Moreover, breast tissue (both cancerous and normal) contains insulin receptors. When the insulin and/or estrogen attach to these receptors, it causes cell division, which spells disaster for breast cancer. Note: some natural plant foods are considered to have a high glycemic index, but also contain many important nutrients, and can be eaten in moderation and along with other low glycemic plant foods. The main guideline is to avoid processed and refined carbs and sugars.

The bottom line: Minimize your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars.

2. Grilled meats

While grilling is frequently touted as the healthiest way to cook meat, this may not be so. Grilling certain animal proteins to high temperatures can increase development of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are mutagenic cancer causing compounds. According to the Cancer Project, the worst offenders included well-done chicken breast, well-done steak, pork, salmon, and well-done hamburger. Unfortunately, alternative cooking methods aren’t much better. Frying and broiling to high temperatures also increases the levels of HCAs in meats.

The American Institute for Cancer Research reports increased risk of both colorectal and breast cancer from all red meat consumption, as well. Smoking and curing meat also adds carcinogens. Yikes! Is a piece of meat really worth sacrificing your health and your life?

The bottom line: If you eat meat, make it an occasional treat and cook just to the safe temperature to eliminate bacteria. Better yet, avoid meat altogether.

3. High Fat Animal Products

A high fat diet raises estrogen and prolactin levels, which can in turn give rise to hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and endometrial cancer. Many commonly consumed animal products are not only rich in fat in general, but in cholesterol-containing saturated fat, which is the type that is extremely problematic for health.

The bottom line: While you need some fat in your diet, get it from avocados, seeds and nuts and other plant foods. Keep animal products in general to a strict minimum (as per #2), and if you do eat some animal protein be sure to trim off all fat and stick to lean cuts. Avoid super fatty animal products altogether such as bacon and cream.

4. Dairy

In order to maintain production, dairy farmers ply their milk-producing animals with all kinds of hormones and chemicals. One of these chemicals is rGBH, which is commonly used in American dairy cattle. Cows’ milk treated with rGBH has higher levels of another hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). This hormone is naturally present in humans and it regulates cell differentiation and division. Studies link elevated levels of IGF-1 to increased risk of breast cancer.

The bottom line: Skip the dairy. Instead, opt for almond milk.

5. Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame (NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda) may increase the risk of breast cancer. Though approved by the FDA, little is known about the long-term effects of these artificial chemicals. Studies have shown, however, that artificial sweeteners can and often do trigger insulin release when ingested (known as the cephalic phase response). Because many consider artificial sweeteners “free” foods since they are non-caloric, this often leads to increased consumption and therefore, elevated insulin levels. For the reasons discussed above, excess elevated insulin may increase the risk of breast cancer.

The bottom line: eat fruit, drink water, and avoid artificial sweeteners.

Foods that May Decrease Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Try these foods, that may decrease your risk of breast and other cancers.

1. Broccoli

This cruciferous vegetable contains high levels of indole-3 carbinol (I3C), which as strong anti-cancer properties. IC3 also shifts estrogen balance, which may reduce risk of developing breast cancer.

2. Red Cabbage

This colorful veggie contains IC3, as well as vitamin A and the flavonoid anthocyanadin (which gives the cabbage its color). All reduce cancer risks. Try whipping up some red Probiotic & Enzyme Salad.

3. Chia Seeds

These seeds are high in Omega-3 acids and antioxidants. Studies at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center showed that Omega-3 fatty acid intake may decrease the risk of developing breast cancer.

4. Shiitake mushrooms

These delicious mushrooms contain lentinan, which boosts immune health and reduces risk of developing certain cancers including breast cancer.

5. Turmeric

This golden spice contains curcumin, an antioxidant that has demonstrated anticancer effects in studies. Try my Veggie-Turmeric-Quinoa recipe in The Beauty Detox Solution.



Last updated: Friday, June 19, 2015
  • Marina

    This is a lovely blog and to the point.Like always thanks for sharing!

    • Kimberly Snyder

      You are welcome Marina!

  • Shweta

    Hi Kim…

    Thanks for everything.. U are a darling… U have no idea how u have helped me transform inside out with all this useful information….Just two questions Kim…
    How long does GGS can last if refrigerated well?
    And do we need to take both Probiotics supplement as well as MagO regularly? Or just taking either one of them is okay?

    Sending Love

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Hi Shweta, thank you and I’m so happy to hear that!
      The GGS will last about 2 -2.5 days if covered well and kept cool.

      The probiotics and MagOxy server different functions. The probiotics are for building friendly flora and immunity in your system, and the MagOxy is for increased cleansing and release of toxins. So they are both important and different.
      Come visit me again! xx

  • http://www.lifemax.net/kathyjudd Kathy Judd

    Thanks for providing this information Kimberly. I am so glad that the message of whole foods plant based diet is getting more and more validation.

    I was happy to see chia seeds on that list because I work with a best-in-class version of chia seeds called Mila. It’s a blend of the strains tested to be the most nutrient dense and split in a way that allows for optimal bioavailability. 3000 mg of plant based Omega’s in a 2 Tbs serving. Health insurance in a bag!

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Great! I’m a big fan of chia seeds.

  • http://www.gamedayrunway.com Mary

    Great article and very informative! Now….going to throw out all my Truvia:/

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Use pure stevia instead. :)

  • Julie

    Thanks for a very useful posting!!
    Perhaps it would be good to mention common cosmetic ingredients that can lead to increased cancer risk. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health considers 884 of the chemicals approved for use in cosmetics to be toxic.
    There are many websites that describe hazardous cosmetic ingredients.
    Thanks again for the information!

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Yes you are right Julie. This post focused on foods, but toxins in cosmetics are absolutely a health hazard, and toxic products (which are most of them) should always be avoided. xx

      • Katherine

        So what kind of products do you recommend or suggest? Are Vegan products the way to go for hair, skin, nails?

  • petrina

    hi, love it so much that i’ll post it on FB. for us foodies, you may want to replace the radicchio with a photo of red cabbage 😉

    • Kimberly Snyder

      It is red cabbage for sure now. :)

  • Kate

    All I can say is thankyou!!xxxx

  • http://www.lizzylizano.etsy.com Lizzy

    Thanks for this post. I need to research Chia Seed! I honestly have never heard of it, Im interested in some recipes.

  • Priscilla

    So I’ve overhauled most of my diet: stopped eating meat, cut out dairy, and changed sweeteners to xylitol and stevia. Only to find that gum has all sorts of horrendous ingredients. My husband chews a ridiculous amount daily. Do you know how much actually gets ingested? I guess I’m hoping since we don’t actually “eat” gum that it’s safe.

  • Nineva

    I need to get this article to a friend of mine who is currently fighting this battle. She loves dairy – especially cheese and she drinks diet rite cola a lot. I guess I will print it and mail it to make sure that she gets it! — Bouncing off another reply..what is the verdict on Stevia?

  • Karise

    Hi Kim,
    Thank you for another great post! I’m so pleased to see that none of the ’causes’ are regular occurances in my diet, if ever at all!
    I am an avid reader of your blog and book, thank you so much for allowing me to see calorie counting and starvation are not the keys to beauty :)
    I am struggling however with the total amount of food I really need in a day. Sometimes I feel like I eat too much then other days feel lethargic and know I have not eaten enough throughout the day.
    Would it be possible for you to post a couple of sample daily meal plans (what you even eat) so we can gauge this?
    Thanks again!

  • Cinnamon

    Keep up the great info Kimberly! I love your emails and re-read “Beauty Detox” on a weekly basis. Are you planning any new books soon? Anything else “in the works?”

  • Sarah

    hi kim,

    I have read your fantastic book a couple of times now, but I’m still confused on combining avocado. Is avocado ok to combine with sunflower and pumkin seeds? If not, what would pumkin seeds be more ideally combined with?

    Sorry if I missed something in your book!

    Thanks x

  • Gladys M

    Hi kimberly … Thank you to share with us good news about our health.. One question ? Is brown good or bad ? Course with moderation..

  • Gladys M

    Sorry I mean brown sugar …

  • Tammi

    Thanks for this great information! I just bought the book and I have started the GGS. I have added wheatgrass to the GGS but did not see that mentioned in the book. What is your take on wheatgrass? Should I remove it from my GGS?


  • Randi

    Hi Kim- another great post!

    I have a question for you. Recently, I’ve been noticing that I have a lot of under-eye puffiness. It is especially noticable when I look back at pictures taken of myself- eek! I’m only 25 years old! Do you have any suggestions for reducing under-eye puffiness through diet or foods that may be causing this problem?!

    I appreciate any insight you may have!

  • Maya

    Hi Kimberly,

    First off, thank you for sharing all of your insightful and valuable information with us. You are a true inspiration and have truly affected the way I think about things since I first discovered your blog and read the BDS.

    I have been implementing the BDS into my diet and lifestyle since July (started by jumping into the Radiant Beauty phase because I was already vegetarian, practice yoga, and eat healthier than most people I know) and found it easy to follow over summer. Over time I have found it difficult to stick to it as well as I would hope to. I am currently senior in college and have found the demands of school, my social life, and temptations of foods that my friends like to indulge in, preventing me from fully reaching my detox goals. I find myself eating very well and following the BDS throughout the week, but once the weekend or a vacation rolls around I divert from my good practices. I am trying to find a balance between not being too hard on myself and feeling proud of positive changes I have made for my overall health. I would love to hear any advice or words of wisdom you have on this type of situation.

    Thanks again!

  • Beth

    Thanks for posting this blog, Kimberly! I had breast cancer and saw you on tv with Hoda & Kathie Lee after my chemo and downloaded yr book to my Kindle that morning! I have family and friends drinking the GGS too. I am working on getting back to my healthy self. Happy Holidays!

  • http://kimberlysnyder.net Claudia

    I am seriously thinking of buying a juicer to get more green in my diet.

    My question is, if I am insulin resistant can I have the “Green Smoothie” as a breakfast option. Also, will I be able to loose weight?

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post!! I always enjoy reading your blog and following your wisdom (also through your fabulous book and recipes). I’m curious, I’ve tried the Probiotic and Enzyme salad with and without miso paste and do not like the taste really either way (however, i prefer without miso). Do you have any suggestions as far as something else I could eat that would be equally nutritious? Thank you for everything you do!!

  • Kaileen

    I know this focus is on foods but THANK YOU for publishing about the risk of Oral Contraceptives and Breast Cancer. It infuriates me how little it is talked and pushed upon us. You mention the falling rates may be attributed to HRT use dropping… one can only imagine what would happen if OCP use dropped as well! When trying to be healthy and natural in diet we’re somehow conditioned to still ingest these known carcinogens. I found the book “Taking Charge of your Fertility” to be a GREAT resource in how to go natural in our family planning as well.

  • Linda

    Thanks to my niece posting your website on Facebook! I love my VitaMix, I use it to make smoothies for my husband and me, I call them my “oh so good for you smoothies”. They are full of organic green veggies & fruit. We try to eat all organic foods because I have had breast cancer and a rare form of cancer on the retina of my eye, I also have fibromyagia. I also make organic muffins full of different grains along with carrots & coconut. I even make organic cookies for our labs.

    I am looking forward to learn more from you and others on your site.

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