Breast Health Challenge Tip #5

Eat 2 tbsp. of soaked or freshly ground flaxseeds a day.


Include flaxseed in your diet each day to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Flaxseed may also reduce tumour growth in women dealing with breast cancer. Dietary flaxseed can help lower estrogen levels in the body. Such a mighty little seed, worth getting to know!

How Does it Work?

Flaxseeds contain two beneficial substances: 1) the fiber contains lignan, which acts as a protective phytoestrogen, binding to estrogen receptors to block the body’s strong or potentially harmful estrogens as well as environmental estrogens such as PCBs, pesticides, plastics and toxic metals; 2) flaxseed contains alpha linolenic acid, an Omega 3 oil that has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Studies on animals with breast cancer have shown that flaxseed can reduce the size of breast tumours by 67 percent, and is effective at preventing cancers induced by chemicals. A Toronto researcher, Lilian Thompson, found that women who used flaxseeds in their diets between the time of diagnosis and the time of surgery to remove a breast tumour were able to decrease their tumour growth before the surgery.

Studies on mice show that a diet containing 10% flaxseed reduced breast cancer tumour growth by between 22% (when estrogen levels were low) and 74 % (when estrogen levels were high) and increased the death rate of breast cancer cells, a process referred to as apoptosis. Another study found that when mice consumed a diet containing 10% flaxseed, a 45% reduction in overall spread of cancer and an 82% reduction in lung metastases occurred relative to a control group.

Your body makes several types of estrogen, some protective, others harmful. In studies on premenopausal women, flaxseed intake increased the C2 hydroxyestrone (good estrogen metabolite) and decreased the C16 hydroxyestrone (harmful estrogen metabolite).

Women whose cancer is driven by estrogen often use the drug Tamoxifen to block estrogen receptors, inactivating the hormone – flaxseed works in a similar way as Tamoxifen and enhances the effectiveness of the drug.

When a cancerous tumour is forming, it relies on the formation of a blood supply to grow. One substance that stimulates the formation of a blood supply is called VEGF, or vascular endothelial growth factor. Dietary flaxseed decreases VEGF, thus slowing down the progression of breast cancer.

How Do I Use Flaxseeds?

Use a small electric coffee grinder and add them ground to pancakes, muffins, cookies, breads, cereals, juice, smoothies or even sprinkled in salad. Grind them daily so that the oil does not become rancid with storage. Freshly ground flaxseeds should be consumed within 15 minutes of grinding. Aim for two to four tablespoons (25-50 g) daily. (If you have more than 2 tbsp. daily, you may need extra vitamin B6).

For a great breakfast cereal using flaxseeds, see Recipes.


Take the Breast Health Challenge!

Eat flaxseeds and take a photo or make a video of you doing it, and post on your Facebook page, Youtube or Instagram with the hashtag #breasthealthchallenge between Oct 1-31. Challenge your friends to do the same.

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Tell us about how you include flaxseeds in your diet in the comments section below. Let’s share what works!

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