Do Food Choices Among Cultures Affect Breast Cancer Risk?

Question from Lorie Williams, One-Year Breast Cancer Survivor: Hi, my name is Lorie Williams and I'm a one-year breast cancer survivor. And my question is: do food choices among cultures affect breast cancer risk?

Response from Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., American Cancer Society: That's a very interesting question, because obviously we are what we eat in a very real sense. Many years ago, we learned that women who came from Asian cultures, particularly from Japan, who migrated to the United States, had a lower history of breast cancer, a lower incidence of breast cancer when they first came to this country; but as time went on, as more generations were here in this country, their risk of breast cancer increased. And we attributed that to the fact that these women who had an Asian diet, shall we say, when they came to this country, their diet became more westernized, and that was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

So there are undoubtedly food choices that we make that can influence our risk. More importantly, it's important for everyone to know that obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer, particularly in post-menopausal women. So watching what you eat, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising, taking care of yourself, is very important. But there's no doubt that food choices can make a difference in the risk of this disease.