Treatments done to prevent breast cancer recurrence often inhibit the body’s production or use of estrogen, the hormone that can contribute to the spread of breast cancer. As a result of treatment, patients experience certain side effects such as hot flushes and night sweats. The side effects of breast cancer treatment can last months or years after completion of the treatment and can adversely impact survivors’ quality of life and can lead them to stopping ongoing treatments. Now, a new study has found that eating certain foods could help decrease the side effects caused by breast cancer treatment. The research suggests that diet can serve as a modifiable target for possibly reducing symptoms among breast cancer survivors.
A team of scientists led by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center found that soy foods (such as soy milk, tofu and edamame) and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbages, kale, collard greens, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and broccoli) helped reduce common side effects of treatment in breast cancer survivors. According to the study:
- Patients who consumed more soy foods showed evocative associations with lower reporting of other symptoms, including joint problems, hair thinning/loss and memory, but these associations did not reach statistical significance.
- High intake of soy foods was found to be associated with decrease in fatigue
- The photochemicals or bioactive food components such as isoflavones in soy foods and glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables may be the source of the benefit.
The researchers, however, warned that until there is additional research on this topic, breast cancer patients should not suddenly start eating soy if they have not consumed it before, though they can safely include cruciferous vegetables in their diet.