Go Nuts for Breast Cancer Prevention

That Black Women’s Health Study I profiled in my last Care2 column Prevent Breast Cancer by Any Greens Necessary was out of Boston University. Across the Charles River, the Harvard Nurse’s Health Study also tried to determine which plants were particularly protective in reducing breast cancer risk, and they identified nuts.

They looked at intake of fiber and nuts during adolescence and the incidence of fibrocystic breast disease. Fibroadenomas are noncancerous breast lumps, but are considered a marker for increased breast cancer risk. Depending on what lumpectomy biopsies show, benign lumps can indicate anywhere from 30% to 1,300% greater risk of women with fibrocystic breasts going on to develop cancer later in life. Breast cancer can take decades to develop, so the researchers wanted to start early, asking women what their diets were like in high school.

We’ve known in adulthood that consuming more fiber is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, and this new research suggests the same when you’re younger. Women who had the most fiber intake during adolescence have a 25% lower risk of developing potentially precancerous breast disease. But there’s fiber in all whole plant foods—fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Did any class of plant foods stick out?

Nut consumption was found to be particularly protective. Just two servings a week was associated with a 36% lower risk. That raises the question, though. Which type of nuts? Do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches count or do you have to eat true nuts, like almonds or pecans? Click on the above video to find out.

Harvard researchers also found that fiber and nut consumption was associated with a significantly longer lifespan in women. See my 2-min. video What Women Should Eat to Live Longer, one of the top ten most popular NutritionFacts.org videos of 2012.

Soy food consumption during adolescence also seems particularly protective. See my 3-min. video Why Do Asian Women Have Less Breast Cancer?.

What effect might even just a few days on a diet full of plants have on breast cancer cell growth? See my 4-min. video Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle.

Don’t nuts make you fat, though? You’d be surprised—check out Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: -Ebelien- / Flickr

Breast Cancer Survival and Soy
Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs Broccoli
Mushrooms for Breast Cancer Prevention

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Dale O.

Always healthy to eat nuts for many reasons.

Teresa Garcia
Teresa GarcĂ­a2 years ago

Marvelous!. Nuts are just great!!! :)

Ela V.
Ela V.2 years ago

great, i love wallnuts and nuts in general

Ela V.
Ela V.2 years ago

great, i love wallnuts and nuts in general

Carla van der Meer

Thank you for sharing,

Tania Koshman
Tania Koshman2 years ago

thank you! good info

Loo Samantha
Loo sam2 years ago


andrew h.
- -.2 years ago


if open minded, the soul is important in prevention too (in addition to not replacing other prevention methods)

(e.g forgiveness, helping others without expecting reward "seva" etc):

a general prevention program is in

"Soul Mind Body Medicine" book by Zhi Gang Sha MD

Larry Dossey MD on the book says Dr Sha is a "authentic healer"

not medical advice, please use your intuition and your good judgement about use of this information

Ana R2 years ago

Great reminder:) Thank you!

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider2 years ago

Love nuts!!!