Does Eating Fruit Fight Breast Cancer?

The Potential Cancer-Fighting Powers of Your Favorite Fruits

fruit
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Research has shown that several servings of fruit daily may help reduce the risk of breast cancer or fend off a recurrence. Furthermore, there is no doubt that fruit, especially fresh fruit, is good for your health.

Health Benefits

According to The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), eating one and a half cups of fruit a day helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases and cancer. Even more, a healthy diet that includes a rich selection of fruits and vegetables helps ward off heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney stones, as well as cancers of the mouth, stomach, and colon.

Experts tell us that choosing the fruits we eat can be simple and easy: Simply select a rainbow of colors. The deep colors in different fruits (as well as vegetables) are often conferred by the very compounds which may help fight cancer. 

Nutrients

Fruits have many dietary benefits. They contain fiber, phenols, antioxidants, folic acid, and vitamin C. They are also low in fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol. More specifically, healthy components in fruit include:

  • 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.
  • Phenols: Phenols are aromatic compounds that occur in essential oils of fruits, such as those in citrus varieties. Phenols have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties. These fragrant compounds can act as nerve stimulants and immune system stimulants.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit or reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals, thus preventing some cell damage. Antioxidants can help promote good health for your heart, brain, and eyes by slowing the natural aging process.
  • 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 your womb. Oranges are especially high in folic acid.
  • Potassium: 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 potassium. These fruits may help keep your blood pressure in the healthy range. The electrolyte action of potassium helps keep your muscles healthy by maintaining good fluid levels and assisting with your metabolism.
  • 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.

Cancer-Preventing Properties

In addition to the nutrients above, many fruits may play a role in cancer prevention or treatment through:

  • Phenolic effects: Natural phenolic compounds have been studies 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.
  • Antioxidant activity: Since oxidative stress can cause damage to genetic material in cells leading to the development of cancer, fruits with antioxidant activity likely play a role in reducing risk. Many studies have found that cancer risk is lower overall in people who consume more fruits. Since there are many different ways in which antioxidants work, we don't know exactly their role in cancer treatment at this time.
  • Antiproliferative effects: Many fruits appear to have antiproliferative activity (inhibiting growth) against several types of cancer cells.
Phenolic
Effects
Antioxidant Activity Antiproliferative* Power
Cranberry Cranberry Cranberry
Apple Apple Lemon
Red Grapes Red Grapes Apple
Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry
Pineapple Peach Red Grapes
Banana Lemon Banana
Peach Pear Grapefruit
Lemon Banana Peach
Orange Orange
Pear Grapefruit
Grapefruit Pineapple *preventing spread of malignant cells

Eating Fruit

To get the most cancer-fighting benefits from fruit, eat it fresh. Fresh fruits have the fullest health benefits, particularly from fiber. 

If you need something more convenient than fresh fruit, try pre-cut fruit that is packed in cans or jars without additional sugar. Dried fruits are portable and are available in a variety 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.

A Word From Verywell

Fruit is not only tasty, but packs a powerful punch as a food group that may reduce your risk of breast cancer and may inhibit the growth of a tumor already present. Choosing a wide variety of fruits is your best bet. (One possible exception is grapefruit as there are conflicting reports about whether it may increase breast cancer risk.)

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