By Somi Igbene

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that originates from the breast tissue. It commonly affects the inner lining of the milk ducts (ductal carcinomas) or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk (lobular carcinomas).

File Photo: Breast examination

Although breast cancer typically affects Caucasian women, its incidence is dramatically increasing in other populations, particularly Africa. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in Nigeria, accounting for 25.7% of all cancers and 18.6% of cancer deaths. It is estimated that at least 27,840 new cases will develop annually.

Genetics is a significant risk factor for breast cancer, but in most cases lifestyle, dietary choices and environmental factors are the main drivers for its development. Factors include:


*Genetics (the presence of the BRCA1, BRCA2 genes)

*Dense breast tissue

*Environmental toxins (exposure to environmental toxins like secondhand smoke, pesticides, herbicides, radiation and xenoestrogens {synthetic compounds that mimic oestrogen} increase the risk of breast cancer)

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*Late childbearing (having a first child after the age of 30)

*Regular alcohol consumption


*Lack of exercise

Diet appears to play the most crucial role and consuming a diet rich in vegetables, fibre, fruit, and omega-3 fatty acids lowers the risk of breast cancer. Whereas, diets that include substantial amounts of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, processed and red meat, and low fibre significantly increase the risk.

In addition there are certain foods you should consider adding (or increasing) to your diet as they appear to provide protection against cancer.


Some breast cancer studies have shown that the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer are lower than average. In these women, breast cancer is also more likely to spread to other organs and eventually lead to death.

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Flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fats and lignans, a group of compounds that halt the cancer-promoting effects of oestrogen on breast tissue. Supplement with flaxseeds by either adding 1 tbsp of cold pressed oil to salad dressings or adding ground flaxseeds to cereals, salads or smoothies. Never heat flaxseed oil.

Cruciferous vegetables, Yams and Cassava

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain anti-cancer compounds known as glucosinolates. These compounds give rise to other compounds like indoles, isothiocyanates and thiocyanates, which have anticancer properties. Thiocyanates are also abundant in foods such as cassava, yams, millet and plantain.

Soya products

Soy products including tofu, tempeh, soya milk have potent anti-cancer properties due in part to the presence of compounds known as isoflavones which prevent cancer cells from growing and expanding, inhibit the growth of blood vessels that feed cancer cells and help to lower oestrogen levels.

Choose only non-GMO and organic versions. Avoid taking soy isoflavones in capsules/tablets, instead eat the whole soy whether in its whole bean form, as tofu, milk or tempeh.

Do you currently include any of these foods in your diet? If you do, which ones do you use more often?


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.