Can Diet Prevent Breast Cancer From Spreading?

Healthy diets that include plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables that can boost the body's natural immune system can help people in their fight against cancer. While some foods, namely unhealthy, high-fat/high-caloric foods, are best avoided, women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer who want to prevent the spread of cancer to other areas of their bodies may want to cut some surprising foods from their diets.

Preliminary research now suggests limiting the consumption of asparagine, an amino acid, to dramatically reduce the ability of cancer to spread to other parts of the body. A study published in the journal Nature found that reducing asparagine consumption in laboratory mice with triple-negative breast cancer could dramatically reduce the ability of the cancer to travel to distant sites in the body.

Asparagine is found in foods like asparagus, whole grains, soy, seafood, eggs, poultry, beef, legumes, and more. While reducing asparagine will not affect the original breast cancer tumor, it could stop cancer from showing up elsewhere in the body. Researchers suspect that many women with breast cancer do not lose their lives to the original breast cancer tumor, but instead they succumb to metastases or subsequent growths away from the primary site.

"Our study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests diet can influence the course of the disease," said Simon Knott, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics at Cedars-Sinai and one of two first authors of the study. The research from this study was conducted at more than a dozen institutions.

Apart from dietary restrictions, metastasis also could be greatly limited by reducing asparagine synthetase using chemotherapy drug L-asparaginase.

More research is needed as to whether similar results can be produced in human trials, making avoiding asparagine currently a helpful but not entirely foolproof method for preventing the spread of breast cancer to other areas of the body.

Skyler Barnhart