Study: Eating a Mediterranean diet may cut risk of contracting form of breast cancer

(Image credit: David Silverman/Getty Images)

A new study shows that eating a diet rich in staples of a Mediterranean diet — fish, olive oil, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains — may help reduce the risk of developing a type of breast cancer that cannot be treated with hormone therapy.

The study, conducted for the World Cancer Research Fund and published Monday in the International Journal of Cancer, found that the Mediterranean diet might greatly reduce the chances of women getting post-menopausal ER-negative cancer. Piet van den Brandt of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the study's lead researcher, said this "usually has a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer," and the research "can help to shine a light on how dietary patterns can affect our cancer risk."

The study followed 62,573 women between 55 and 69 who tracked their diets over two decades, starting in 1986. Over the course of the study, 3,354 women were found to have breast cancer, with 1,033 cases not analyzed because of family histories of breast cancer or incomplete diet data. The researchers concluded, after analyzing individual components of the subjects' diets, that nut intake was most strongly inversely associated with ER-negative breast cancer, The Guardian reports, followed by fruit and fish. They suggested that if everyone ate the highest defined Mediterranean diet — low in red meat, sugar, and white rice and bread — close to 33 percent of ER-negative breast cancer cases and 2.3 percent of all breast cancer cases could be avoided.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.