Half a million Americans are expected to die this year from cancer, equal to 5 jumbo jets crashing every day. The number of Americans who die from cancer each year is more than all those who have died in all U.S. wars combined. And this happens every single year.
After a cancer diagnosis people tend to clean up their diets. About a third to a half of breast cancer patients, for example, make healthy dietary changes following diagnosis, such as increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and decreasing meat, fat, and sugar intakes. Does it actually help that late in the game? Well, the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study was undertaken in a few thousand breast cancer survivors to determine if a plant-based, low-fat, high-fiber diet could influence breast cancer recurrence rates and survival.
Previously they famously reported that simple changes — 5 or more servings of fruits and veggies a day and just walking 30 minutes a day 6 days a week — were associated with a significant survival advantage, cutting the risk of death nearly in half. Note: it was fruits and veggies and exercise. If you click on the above video, you can see the proportion of women with breast cancer surviving 9 years in the study if they had low fruit and vegetable consumption and low physical activity, compared to those high in one and low in the other, compared to the survival curve of those high in both. And it worked just as well in women with estrogen receptor negative tumors, which normally have twice the mortality — unless women eat those few fruits and veggies and take a few strolls.
Imagine, for a second, you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Imagine sitting in that chair, in the doctor’s office, as your doctor gives you the news. But, she says, there’s a new experimental treatment that can cut your chances of dying in the next few years from 16 percent down to just 4 percent. To quadruple their survival rate, many women would re-mortgage their homes to fly to some quack clinic in Mexico and would lose all their hair to chemo, but most, apparently, couldn’t stand the thought of eating broccoli.
The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study found that while fruits and vegetables in general may be good, cruciferous vegetables may be better. For women on tamoxifen, for example, women who consumed 1 of their 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies as broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, or kale had their risk of cancer recurrence cut in half.
I recommend that all women with breast cancer eat broccoli sprouts.