The After Cancer Diet: How To Live Healthier Than Ever Before

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Findings from the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study showed reducing dietary fat intake may improve disease-free survival survival without a breast cancer recurrence [ ]. Women in this study who reduced their fat intake also lost weight, which may have played a role in their improved survival [ ]. Other studies have found no difference in survival after a breast cancer diagnosis for women who eat a diet low in fat compared to those who eat a diet high in fat [ ]. Current studies suggest eating moderate amounts of soy foods is safe for breast cancer survivors [ ].

Lymphoma Action | Diet and nutrition

Some studies have found a diet high in soy may decrease the risk of breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer mortality death from breast cancer [ ]. Most of these findings are from studies of Asian women, who tend to eat more soy throughout their lives starting early in life compared to other women [ ]. One analysis combined data from 3 large studies of survivors from both Asian and Western countries. It found women who ate at least 10 mg of soy per day after a breast cancer diagnosis had a 25 percent lower risk of recurrence compared to those eating less than 4 mg per day [ ].

Most studies looking at soy and breast cancer have focused on soy foods rather than soy supplements [ ]. In the lab, researchers can separate soy proteins into individual compounds, called isolates. Individual isolates don't occur in nature. This is similar to other supplements such as vitamin A. While many natural things contain vitamin A, pure vitamin A alone does not appear in nature.

Isolates, like pure vitamin A, can only be created in a lab. Because soy supplements are created in a lab, they may contain individual soy protein isolates. Some lab studies of cells have shown soy protein isolates may increase cancer growth [ ]. So, soy supplements are not currently recommended for breast cancer survivors. Learn about ways for breast cancer survivors to treat hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

Learn more about organic foods. Other studies show no increased risk of death from breast cancer or any cause for survivors who drink alcohol [ ]. One reason for these mixed findings may be that drinking in moderation has some health benefits. It may lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and death [ ]. The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors limit alcohol intake to less than 1 drink a day for women and fewer than 2 drinks a day for men [ ].

Drinking more has no health benefits and many serious health risks. After talking with your health care provider, make informed choices about drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol. Some studies suggest being active may lower the risk of [ , ]:. Researchers often use MET metabolic equivalent hours to assess the total amount of activity a person gets.

The more energy an activity needs, the higher its MET score. A pooled analysis that combined data from over 13, breast cancer survivors found those who were more active had better survival [ ]. Breast cancer survivors may not need to do intense exercise to get a benefit though. One study found activity equal to a minute brisk walk several times a week, improved survival [ ].

The American Cancer Society recommends breast cancer survivors [ ]:. A meta-analysis that combined the findings from 16 studies showed breast cancer survivors who got this recommended minutes of exercise per week had an [ ]:. It helps you maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes [ , ]. For breast cancer survivors, it can also [ ,,, ]:. In the past, there was some concern exercise might increase the risk of lymphedema for breast cancer survivors and worsen symptoms in those who developed the condition.

It's best to avoid strenuous exercise right after breast surgery though. Studies also show weight-lifting moderate, in a supervised setting can reduce symptoms in survivors with lymphedema, as well as improve body image, sexuality and physical strength [ 39, ]. A pooled analysis that combined data from about 10, survivors found smoking increased the risk of [ ]:. The more women smoked, the higher these risks [ ]. Stopping smoking, or never starting to smoke, is one of the best things you can do for your health.


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Smoking causes [ ]:. The risk of heart disease goes down very quickly after stopping smoking. And, over time, the risk of lung and other cancers can drop to near that of someone who never smoked [ ]. American Lung Association — Freedom from Smoking www. Department of Defense — Quit Tobacco www. Donate Now Fundraise. Healthy Lifestyle for Breast Cancer Survivors It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle Everyone can benefit from a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle includes: Maintaining a healthy weight Eating a healthy diet Limiting alcohol Getting physical activity exercise Not smoking For breast cancer survivors, some healthy behaviors may lower the risk of recurrence and improve survival. Maintaining a healthy weight. Weight gain Weight gain after breast cancer diagnosis may increase the risk of [ , ]. Breast cancer mortality Overall mortality. Eating a healthy diet.

At this time, we don't fully understand how diet affects survival after breast cancer. A healthy diet is important for everyone, including breast cancer survivors. Healthy diet Breast cancer survivors can benefit from the same healthy diet recommended for everyone [ ]. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

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Survivors who are overweight or obese should limit high-calorie foods and beverages and increase physical activity to help with weight loss. There are different types of macrobiotic diets and some are stricter than others. They may also include guidelines on how food is prepared, your lifestyle and environment.

This diet can be strict and is often low in calories, calcium, iron, B vitamins and other nutrients, so may not be suitable and possibly harmful. Speak to your dietitian or specialist team for advice. Some research has indicated that overnight fasting of 13 or more hours may reduce the risk of recurrence but more research is needed to find out more.


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Studies have shown drinking alcohol increases the risk of getting breast cancer. You can find out how many units are in your drinks by using an online unit calculator. As a general guide:. We know smoking causes a range of health conditions. There is emerging evidence that smoking may also affect the risk of breast cancer recurrence but more research is needed to find out more. If you want to stop smoking there are a range of programmes to help.

Speak to your GP or practice nurse for advice. Physical activity can help improve your long-term health, and has been shown to reduce the risk of health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and some cancers. It may reduce the risk of recurrence but more research is needed to find out more. To hear from us, enter your email address below.

Skip to main content. Home Information and support Facing breast cancer Living with and beyond breast cancer Your body. Healthy eating after breast cancer treatment Complementary therapies. Physical activity and breast cancer recurrence 1. Back to top 2. Diet and breast cancer recurrence High-fibre foods Experts think fibre has many health benefits including improving digestive health and helping to prevent heart disease and some cancers.

High-fibre foods tend to be lower in calories and can help you feel full up for longer, including: wholegrain foods such as brown rice, oats, wholewheat, couscous and quinoa pulses such as lentils and beans starchy foods such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, preferably with their skins on vegetables and fruits There is some evidence that fibre may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence but more research is needed to find out more.

Your diet and physical activity

Phytoestrogens are also found in supplements including: black cohosh red clover sage These are sometimes taken to relieve hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms. Find out more about diet and breast cancer. Back to top 3. These include: The Bristol Whole Life Approach to healthy eating dairy-free diet macrobiotic diet overnight fasting These diets often encourage eating or avoiding certain types of food.

Why is eating well important?

You may hear about some of the diets below. For example, they suggest: eating wholegrain brown rice instead of refined white rice including a range of different colour vegetables and fruit in your diet animal products permitted only in small amounts The Bristol Whole Life Approach to healthy eating aims to help people eat healthily and cope better with the physical and emotional impact of cancer.