Diet therapy

Nutrition and breast cancer

In 2014 breast cancer was the most common cancer among females living in New Zealand.

Around 3000 women and 20 men die each year from breast cancer. The incidence increases with age around 75% of cases are in women over 50 years.1

Although around 600 women die from breast cancer each year the mortality rate has dropped 27% since 1994 due to greater breast awareness and a national screening program for women 44-69 years. This has helped early detection of breast cancer and treatment. Maori and Pacific women in particular, are more at risk of dying from breast cancer than other women living in New Zealand. 1
Good nutrition can also help to reduce the risk of developing cancer as well as help those who are undergoing treatment.

Cancer Treatment

If you are undergoing breast cancer treatment a healthy diet will speed recovery.

Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can all change your desire to eat and alter taste perceptions making some foods taste metallic, others salty or unpleasant.

To aid recovery you need

  • Energy to help fight fatigue and to meet the demands of daily living, cancer treatment and body recovery.
  • Protein and micronutrients to help build and repair body tissues.
  • To overcome issues such as nausea and vomiting.
  • A Dietitian can assess your nutritional status and offer practical solutions to all feeding problems.

Cancer Protection

 Foods that have been linked with cancer risk reduction

  • Fruit and Vegetables, particularly those that are brightly coloured or dark green and aim for 5-9 servings per day. Calciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower also offer protection.
  • Dietary fibre aim for around 25-35g per day this will prevent colon cancer but also reduce fat absorption and helps to bind oestrogen.
  • Antioxidants such as carotenes, vitamins C & E (but take carotenes as foods not supplements).
  • Eat fish 2-3x per week as these are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Calcium aim for 1000-1300mg per day.
  • Soy, aim for 1-2 servings per day in the form of milk, tofu or soy and linseed bread.
  • Tea (black or green) 3-5 cups per day.
  • Reduce fat intake to between 20-30% of total energy. Limit saturated fat (meat, processed foods and fried foods). Use low fat milk and dairy products, limit meat to 2-3 small servings per week. Avoid char-grilling red meat and cured meats. Use more mono and polyunsaturated fats (canola and olive oil, nuts and seeds and fish such as tuna, sardines and salmon)
  • Weight control reduces circulating oestrogen and breast cancer risk.
  • Alcohol women who drink 2-5 alcoholic drinks each day have a 41% higher risk of breast cancer than those who drink less.
  • Regular exercise (30 minutes or more/day) helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

If you would like to see if you are reaching these nutritional targets each day, and if not how to, then contact us for a wellness check today


About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


Leave a Reply

Showing 2 comments

Also in Diet Therapy View all »

Would you like to subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.


Yes please, it sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).



No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).