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Eating Cruciferous Vegetables Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Risk

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Much research has shown that what you eat as well as your genetic make-up probably have some influence on your risk of breast cancer. A study looked at how diet and genetics might combine to influence breast cancer risk.

More than 6,000 Chinese women participated in the study. The researchers found that:
  • Women who ate the most cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale) were less likely to develop breast cancer after menopause than women who ate the least amount of cruciferous vegetables.
  • Women who had a GSTP1 gene with what's called a Val variant had a higher-than-average risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. But these women with a GSTP1 Val variant got more benefits from eating lots of cruciferous vegetables compared to women who didn't have a GSTP1 Val variant and ate lots of cruciferous veggies.

Cruciferous vegetables have high levels of compounds that the body turns into isothiocyanates. Researchers think that isothiocyanates may help fight cancer. People with a Val variant of the GSTP1 gene flush the compounds that are turned into isothiocyanates out of their bodies faster than people who don't have this variant. So, people with the Val variant are less likely to get the anti-cancer benefits of isothiocyanates. It's possible that women with the Val variant can make up for this lack of isothiocyanates by eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables. This might be why women with the Val variant who ate lots of cruciferous vegetables had a reduced risk of breast cancer.

This research was done in China. Like other Asian countries, the number of breast cancer diagnoses in China has been increasing as more women adopt a typically Western diet and lifestyle. It's possible that people now are eating fewer cruciferous vegetables, which may be contributing to higher numbers of breast cancer cases.

What you eat is just one of many choices you can make to help keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be. Visit the Breastcancer.org Breast Cancer Risk Factors: What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk section for more information.

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