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Plant-Based Diet, Healthy Weight, and Exercise Key to Breast Cancer Treatment Success

Good nutrition is important for any person going through cancer treatment and for cancer survivors. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we focus on nutrition and breast cancer health.


Various studies have concluded that women following a diet rich in plant foods, also known as a plant based diet, have a decreased risk of breast cancer development, recurrence and mortality. Healthy plant foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and soy products. There is confusion over soy consumption and its possible link to breast cancer. The American Cancer Society’s 2012 Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines concluded that current research finds no harmful effects from breast cancer survivors eating soy. In fact, some research shows a lower risk of breast cancer development and/or recurrence with regular consumption of soy products. Healthy soy foods include soy beans or edamame, soy nuts, tofu, tempeh and soy milk. Soy is also a source of complete protein, fiber, B vitamins and calcium.

Achieving a healthy weight is also important during breast cancer treatment and for breast cancer survivors. During treatment women may gain weight. This may possibly be because of body composition changes, less physical activity from fatigue, or high calorie food consumption. Women who gain a significant amount of weight during treatment are more likely to have breast cancer recurrence or die from their cancer. If weight has been gained and weight loss is unable to be achieved, women may still get the benefits from eating a plant based diet and getting at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

Good nutrition is critical for women undergoing breast cancer treatment and for breast cancer survivors. Following a healthy, plant based diet, getting the recommended amount of physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight can help get women through their treatment and help breast cancer survivors enjoy a long, healthy life.

Andrea Gamber, RDN, LDN, Clinical Dietitian. If you’re interested in individual outpatient nutrition counseling, contact Andrea at 610-208-4735 or AGamber1@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or schedule an appointment at 610-378-2100.


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