Does Eating Fruit Fight Breast Cancer?

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Eating fruit daily may help reduce the risk of breast cancer or fend off a recurrence. In fact, one 2018 study that followed women over 30 years confirmed that regular consumption of fruits reduced the risk of breast cancer, particularly more aggressive subtypes. While fruit is well-known for its antioxidants—compounds known to fight cancer-causing free radicals, it also has other components that are thought to play a role in providing these benefits.

Aside from its potential benefits for breast cancer, there is no doubt that fruit, especially fresh fruit, is good for your overall health, and, when part of a healthy diet, may help ward off heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and kidney stones, as well as cancers of the mouth, stomach, and colon.

Breast Cancer-Preventing Properties

Fruits may play a role in breast cancer prevention or treatment due to their:

  • Phenolic effects: Natural phenolic compounds have been studied for a long time both for their chemopreventive (cancer reduction) effects and for their chemotherapeutic (cancer treatment) effects. These compounds appear to have a direct effect on cell cycle progression, and several types of phenolic compounds have been found to inhibit the proliferation (growth) of some cancers. (Phenols also have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties, and can act as nerve and immune system stimulants, which brings other health benefits.)
  • Antioxidant activity: Since oxidative stress can cause damage to genetic material in cells that can lead to the development of cancer, fruits with antioxidant activity likely play a role in reducing risk.
  • Antiproliferative effects: Many fruits appear to have antiproliferative activity, inhibiting growth of several types of cancer cells.
Top Picks
Phenolic
Effects
Antioxidant Activity Antiproliferative Power
Cranberries Cranberries Cranberries
Apples Apples Lemons
Red grapes Red grapes Apples
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
Pineapple Peaches Red grapes
Bananas Lemons Bananas
Peaches Pears Grapefruit
Lemons Bananas Peaches
Oranges Oranges  
Pears Grapefruit  
Grapefruit Pineapple  

Other Components and Their Benefits

In addition to its properties that may help thwart breast cancer, fruit also contains the following, which have other disease-fighting benefits:

  • Dietary fiber: Fresh and dried fruits are a good source of dietary fiber. While you're snacking on that apple-cranberry-banana salad, you're lowering your cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease, and keeping your digestive system happy. Fiber from fruit helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis while giving you that feeling of fullness that helps you cut down on overeating. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Folic acid: Folic acid, or folate, is necessary to the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. These cells also remove waste products from your tissues. Premenopausal women and women who are in the first three months of pregnancy require an adequate supply of folate. Eating fruits and vegetables that are high in folate, or taking folic acid supplements, helps reduce your baby's risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly as they develop in the womb. Oranges are especially high in folic acid.
  • Potassium: The electrolyte action of potassium helps keep your muscles healthy by maintaining good fluid levels and assisting with your metabolism. Fruits that are high in potassium include bananas, prunes, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon. Prune juice and orange juice are also fine sources of this nutrient. These options may help keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.
  • Vitamin C: Oranges and other citrus fruits are high vitamin C, which is important for all of your body tissues. Vitamin C assists with tissue growth and repair, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps your teeth and gums healthy.

Guidelines for Fruit Consumption

When it comes to how much fruit you should eat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

  • Men: Two cups daily
  • Women ages 19 to 30: Two cups daily
  • Women over 30: One and a half cups daily

People who get more than 30 minutes of exercise per day may be able to consume more and stay within a desirable calorie range.

Eating Fruit

Eating fresh fruit conveys the most health benefits. The best approach is to eat a wide variety of choices. The deep colors of some fruits (as well as vegetables) are often conferred by the very compounds that may help fight cancer. 

If you need something more convenient, try pre-cut fruit that is packed in cans or jars without additional sugar. Dried fruits are another portable option and are available at most grocery stores.

Frozen fruits can be kept on hand and used in smoothies, pies, or compotes. Pureed and juiced fruits, particularly canned and bottled juices, have little or no fiber but are still beneficial in other ways.

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