The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, omega-3 and whole grain cereals. Image by: CharlieAJA/Istock.com
A Mediterranean diet can help reduce the risk of one of the worst types of breast cancer by 40%, an extensive study has suggested.
More than 60,000 women were tracked over two decades by researchers who found that those who ate a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and olive oil had a far lower chance of developing an aggressive form of the disease.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK.
The study, backed by the World Cancer Research Fund, tracked women aged between 55 and 69.
It found that those who stuck closest to a Mediterranean diet had a 40% reduced risk of oestrogen receptor-negative breast cancer.
About one in three cases falls into this category, which has the highest risk of death.
A Mediterranean diet includes a high amount of plant-based proteins such as nuts, lentils and beans, whole grains, fish and mono-unsaturated fats – known as “good fats” – such as olive oil.
It avoids white rice or white bread, red meat and sweets.
Although the traditional Mediterranean diet involves moderate consumption of alcohol, in this study it was excluded from the criteria, as it is a known risk factor for breast cancer and is linked to 12,000 cases annually.
About 40% of all cancers are linked to lifestyle and the risk of breast cancer is heightened by obesity, diet, alcohol and smoking.
Panagiota Mitrou, director of research funding at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This study showed that following a Mediterranean diet could help reduce breast cancer – particularly the subtype with a poorer prognosis.”