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Eating right helps with breast cancer prevention

by Naomi Draves
Dietetic Intern
According to, one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  There is no better time than October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to start protecting yourself and the women in your life.
Breast cancer is a change in the genes that keep cells healthy.  In the case of breast cancer, this change occurs in the cells of the breast.  It is known that breast cancer is an inherited genetic problem, but about 90 percent of breast cancer is a result of aging and the environment in which we live. 
So, how can we protect ourselves from breast cancer? It can be as simple as the food we eat and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise is a key component to maintaining a healthy weight.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults engage in at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and strength training activities at least twice a week. More information on exercise recommendations can be found at
Food also is  an important part of weight maintenance and disease prevention. A low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of breast cancer. 
Fruits and vegetables contain compounds called phytochemicals which are a living, active part of plants.  Phytochemicals protect the body’s cells from oxidative damage, thus helping protect against cancer. Other beneficial components found in fruits vegetables are antioxidants, which help protect cells from free radicals. Normal contact with pollution, such as cigarette smoke in daily living may activate cancer-causing free radicals in the body.  Antioxidants work to reverse this effect.
While people cannot change their genetics, individuals can provide their bodies with the right fuel to fight cancer. Throughout October, make it a goal to choose nutrient-dense foods rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals. Fall foods such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash, apples, carrots, broccoli and cranberries are high in these cancer fighting compounds. 
Consider Web sites such as and for tasty recipes like the one below, and start incorporating these foods into your diet today.

Pumpkin or Banana Pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. honey
2 eggs
1 ½ cup buttermilk
1 cup bananas (peeled, mashed) or pumpkin (prepared)
Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat liquid ingredients together until smooth. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Cook and enjoy.

Friday, Oct. 16, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.