There are a variety of factors at play when people develop breast cancer, including environment, genetics, family history, and lifestyle habits. We can’t control all of these, but we can try to eat healthy and get regular exercise — both of which can help protect against cancer.
“It is empowering for women to be able to make changes in their lifestyle and diet to reduce the risk of developing cancer and other diseases,” said Michelle Smekens, ND, FABNO, naturopathic oncology provider at Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Midwestern Regional Medical Center.
Avocados have become pretty popular in recent years. They have several key nutrients and can be eaten in so many different ways. The versatile, savory fruit may even offer some protection against breast cancer.
While avocados are by no means a miracle cure, they can contribute to a balanced, healthy diet, which could help you reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.
In a review of research on the potential health benefits of avocados, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles looked at evidence that specific extracts of avocado can reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells and oral cancer cells.
The review concluded that the phytochemicals (active chemical compounds in plants) in avocados make them potentially beneficial for cancer prevention. Still, there is very little research on breast cancer itself.
“There are no studies to date specifically linking avocados with breast cancer risk reduction,” says Smekens.
But avocados would be considered part of a diet that is beneficial for breast health. One example of a healthy diet is the Mediterranean diet, which involves daily vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains, and eating lean proteins just a few times a week.
“Women who eat a high animal fat diet have an increased breast cancer risk,” says Smekens. “A traditional Mediterranean diet, low in animal fat and high in monounsaturated fats, may explain part of why this particular diet is beneficial for breast health.”
Avocados are a good source of healthy fats as well as other important nutrients that help maintain overall health. Some of these nutritional elements have been shown to be helpful in reducing breast cancer risk.
“Olive oil and avocados are foods with high levels of monounsaturated fats. Previous research has shown reduced risk of aggressive breast cancer in women consuming diets rich in olive oil,” says Smekens.
B vitamins help you turn food into energy. They also support nervous system and blood cell growth. A 1-cup serving of raw avocado gives you around 30 percent of your daily target of folate, as well as a good amount of vitamin B-6 and niacin.
A 2011 report followed breast cancer rates over a nine-year period in women who had little access to fortified foods and supplements, meaning they got most of their nutrients from unprocessed sources.
Women who consumed more B vitamins were found to have lower breast cancer rates.
Lutein is a carotenoid, a naturally occurring plant pigment found in avocado. A 2018 study published in the journal Molecules examined the ability of lutein to interfere with the growth of breast cancer cells.
Researchers concluded that lutein may have potential when it comes to fighting breast cancer.
“Avocados are high in lutein, which is also associated with eye health,” says Smekens. “A 2014 Chinese study showed higher serum lutein levels were associated with a 51 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Dietary intake of lutein and other naturally occurring antioxidants may also be contributing to the protective benefits of the Mediterranean diet in postmenopausal women.”
One cup of raw avocado provides around 10 grams of fiber, which is about 40 percent of your daily dietary fiber need. According to one 2012 review, diets high in fiber may help protect against breast cancer.
Although practicing a healthy lifestyle plays an important role in helping to reduce your risk of breast cancer, we can’t control our genetics. If you do develop cancer, there are many more treatment options than there were in years past. And it’s still beneficial to eat a healthy diet.
When you’re going through cancer diagnosis and treatment, practicing self-care and connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can also help. Find support from others who are living with breast cancer. Download Healthline’s free app here.