Nutrition and Breast Cancer

This information may contribute to maintain general health if you are at risk of developing breast cancer, or if you are diagnosed or recovered.

Contributing factors to breast cancer
Factors that cannot be changed:
Factors that can be changed:
weight factor

Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most important things you can do to maintain overall health. Excess weight and an increased level of body fat are linked to an increased risk of some diseases, including cancer.

Women who have gone through menopause who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Research indicates that gaining a lot of weight during or after breast cancer treatment increases the risk of breast cancer recurring as well as the risk of developing other types of cancer.

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a measurement of body weight based on height. It is one way to assess body weight. A healthy BMI for most adults is between 18.5 and 24.9.
The table below shows the National Institutes of Health (NIH) weight classes.

Weight category BMI
Weight loss less than 18.5
Normal 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight 25.0 to 29.9
Obesity 30.0 to 39.9
Morbid obesity 40.0 or higher

There are many reasons for weight gain, including:

  • Increasing calories per day
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Eating to feel comfortable or to resist negative emotions
Nutrition factor

The balance of food in your diet is important when you are trying to eat healthy food. Always look at the plate image at the bottom. This may help you choose the right serving size of different food items.

The plate can be divided as shown in the photo above:
A quarter of a plate or more of non-starchy vegetables, such as:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Mushroom
  • Pumpkin
  • Pepper
  • Tomatoes

A quarter of the plate is starchy, such as:

  • Whole grains (such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and whole wheat bread)
  • Starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and peas)

One-third of a serving of animal or vegetable protein:

  • Fish (such as sardines, salmon, fresh fish)
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Poultry (eg chicken and turkey)
  • Red meat (eg beef and lamb), only once or twice a week
  • Plant proteins such as legumes (such as beans and lentils) and tofu

A portion can be added to two portions of fruit per day, such as:

  • Green apple
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Black raspberries
  • Red berries
  • Banana
  • Orange
  • Dates
  • Figs

Important eating habits:

  • Control calories intake with the advice of a clinical nutrition expert
  • Reduce total sugars and added sugars (eg soft drinks, juices, snacks and desserts)
  • Fiber is an important part of the diet, as it contributes to maintaining blood sugar, maintaining regular bowel movements, and feeling full after a meal.
  • Choose foods that contain healthy fats such as (almonds, olive oil, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, avocado)
Physical activity factor

Regular physical activity is important for good health. An association has been observed between 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise per day and a lower risk of breast cancer.

The benefits of physical activity:

  • Helping to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Improve heart health.
  • Maintain bone strength.
  • Building muscle mass and reducing fatty tissue.
  • Reduce fatigue and increase energy levels.
  • Reduce depression or anxiety.


(Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center , 2021)

(National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, n.d.)

(Cicco, 2019)