By: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.
A half million Americans are expected to die this year from cancer, equal to 5 jumbo jets crashing… every day. The number of Americans who die from cancer each year is more than all those who have died in all US wars combined. And this happens every single year.
After a cancer diagnosis people tend to clean up their diets. About a third to a half of breast cancer patients, for example, make healthy dietary changes following diagnosis, such as increasing in fruit and vegetable consumption and decreasing meat, fat and sugar intakes. Does it actually help that late in the game? Well, the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study was undertaken in few thousands breast cancer survivors to determine if a plant- based, low-fat, high-fiber diet could influence breast cancer recurrence rates and survival.
Previously they famously reported that simple changes—5 or more servings fruits and veggies a day and just like walking 30 minutes a day 6 days a week was associated with a significant survival advantage, cutting risk nearly in half. Note I said fruits and veggies and exercise. Here’s the proportion of women with breast cancer surviving 9 years in the study if they had low fruit and vegetable consumption and low physical activity, or high in one and low in the other. But here’s the survival curve, of those high in both.
And it worked just as well in women with estrogen receptor negative tumors, which normally have twice the mortality… unless, you eat a few fruits and veggies, and taking a few strolls. The “high” should really be in quotes, I mean you could eat 5 servings in a single meal and certainly walk more than like 2 miles a day.
Imagine, for a second, you have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Imagine sitting in that chair, in the doctor’s office, as your doctor gives you the news… But, there’s a new experimental treatment that can cut your chances of dying in the next few years from like 16% down to just 4%. To quadruple their survival rate many women would re-mortgage their homes to fly to some quack clinic in Mexico, would lose all their hair to chemo, but most, apparently, couldn’t stand the thought of eating broccoli.
And indeed that’s what the latest report from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study found, fruits and vegetables may be good, but cruciferous vegetables may be better. For women on tamoxifen, for example, if one of their 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies was broccoli or cauliflower/collards/cabbage or kale, the risk of cancer recurrence may be cut in half.
About Michael Greger M.D.
Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.