The Best Diet For HER2 Positive Breast Cancer
Continuing my series of articles on dietary recommendations for particular types of breast cancer, this one is for those of you who have been diagnosed with HER2 Positive (HER2+) breast cancer.
What Exactly is HER2 Positive Breast Cancer?
HER2 positive refers to a type of breast cancer that overexpresses the HER2/neu gene. About 15-20% of breast cancers are HER2+, meaning the cancer is fueled by over-production of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 protein. HER2+ breast cancers contain excess copies of this gene, leading to dramatically more HER2 protein on the surface of cancer cells. Because of this protein, which produces signals that tell the cells to grow, they do so out of control, causing this form of breast cancer.
Many women are told that a HER2+ diagnosis is associated with a significantly higher chance of local breast cancer recurrence (that means the cancer often returns in the same breast as the original tumor). Before the late 1990s, women with HER2+ breast cancer had poorer survival rates. Today, however, because of targeted therapies like Herceptin, this is no longer the case and it is a much more treatable disease. Herceptin works by attaching to HER2 receptors on cancer cells, blocking signals that cause growth, and alerting the immune system to destroy the cancer.
Can Diet Make A Difference?
Please know that there are plenty of things you can eat and supplements you can take which will make a big difference for you and will assist your return to wellness.
Research shows that there are some foods and spices that are especially potent in inhibiting HER2+ breast cancer cell growth and proliferation and in promoting the process known as apoptosis (programmed cell death). In addition, some foods have been found to amplify the effects of Herceptin.
Food That You Should Include In Your Diet If You Have HER2+ Breast Cancer
Wherever possible, try to ensure that the items from the list below are organic, because if you are trying to heal from cancer you need to stay away from conventionally grown produce and meats as much as possible due to the pesticide and herbicide residues. You really need to keep the toxin load at a minimum to give your body a better chance to heal. If you are unable to obtain organically grown produce, just make sure to wash – wash – wash it extremely well. Soak produce in a tub or pail of fresh water with a little white vinegar for a few minutes, then rinse well.
Here’s the list of foods and spices (or their components) which have been found to inhibit the growth or proliferation of HER2+ breast cancer cells. Many of these things also help to counteract the toxicity of Herceptin:
bell peppers (capsicum), black pepper, blueberries, red cabbage, green cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy/Chinese cabbage, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, purple carrots, cherries (particularly sour cherries), celery, cranberries, red grapes, green tea, horseradish, herring, hot peppers, lake trout, mackerel, mustard and mustard greens, extra virgin olive oil, red onions, parsley, pomegranates, raspberries, black rice, wild caught salmon, sardines, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips and turnip greens, walnuts, watercress.
This is not an exhaustive list – indeed, there are many other foods which are known to have anti-cancer benefits – but this is the list that we have research for which indicates a potent anti-HER2+ activity. See my page Diet and Cancer for a list of other foods that have anti-cancer activity.
I recommend that breast cancer patients and survivors with HER2+ breast cancer include as many of the things on the “good” list above and limit or avoid the “please avoid” things that appear below.
Please Avoid These
No food list is complete without mentioning the things that should be avoided for HER2+ breast cancer because they have been shown to promote HER2+ breast cancer growth or increase HER2+ expression. Those things are: alcohol, antioxidant vitamins (this may be contentious – early research has shown that antioxidant vitamins could potentially enable early-stage HER2+ tumor cells to survive when they otherwise would die. I believe further research is necessary to get a better answer on this), folic acid supplements, genistein supplements, grapefruit, the Chinese herb ligusticum chuanxiong, milk thistle or silymarin supplements, the Chinese herb Si-Wu-Tang (may interfere with the effectiveness of Herceptin), soy protein isolate, cigarette smoking.
Foods That Assist the Effects of Herceptin
The following foods have been found to assist the effects of Herceptin against HER2+ breast cancer:
açaí berries, blackberries, boysenberries, cherries (particularly sour or tart), blackcurrants, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts etc), flaxseed, green tea, extra virgin olive oil, passion fruit, purple or red plums, pomegranates, black raspberries, black or purple rice, strawberries, purple sweet potatoes, walnuts
One last item – there are also quite a number of essential oils and other supplements which research has indicated are helpful against breast cancer, and if you would like to know more about which ones to use, contact me.
Thanks for some of the dietary recommendations in this article goes out to http://foodforbreastcancer.com/ – written by Sarah Charles, also a breast cancer survivor and a woman of sharp intellect, Sarah has a mathematics degree from UCLA and is a Harvard graduate.
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