Angelina Jolie's surgeon has recommended women raise their intake of soya to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

Dr Kristi Funk said that while she once told patients to avoid the controversial food - which includes tempeh, tofu, edamame and soya milk - newer studies have shown its benefits in prevention.

She also urged women to fill up on vegetables from the cabbage family and antioxidant-rich berries, reports Daily Mail.

There is also one particular fruit she especially endorses - Indian Gooseberry for its high concentration of antioxidant.

Advertisement

Dr Funk treated US actress Jolie, now 42, who had a preventative double mastectomy in 2013 after finding out she carried the BRCA1 gene, which substantially raises the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.

Talking about soya being harmful, she said: "It's a myth, let's bust it. I was part of the myth, telling you just stay away, better safe than sorry. Wrong, wrong wrong.

"Five huge studies since 2009 show that if you consume whole food soy these are anti-estrogens in your body."

Speaking on US breakfast show, Good Morning America to mark National Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, Dr Funk, also hailed 3-D mammography - also known as tomosynthesis - as one of the most important recent breast cancer developments.

A recent study found that it had a 34 percent higher rate of finding the disease than 2-D mammography, because 3D is especially more accurate for breast dense women, she said.

Dr Funk is the founder of Pink Lotus Breast Center in California. Photo / Getty Images
Dr Funk is the founder of Pink Lotus Breast Center in California. Photo / Getty Images

The founder of Pink Lotus Breast Center in California also reminded women without a family history of breast cancer to not get complacent about preventative measures as 90 to 95 percent of breast cancer cases are not hereditary.

"There's 1.7million invasive breast cancers being diagnosed globally this year. I promise you, over one million of them I know how to control and prevent," she said. "It starts with the diet. Diet, nutrition, exercise, obesity, alcohol - there's so much we can control."

Here are Dr Funk's top ten prevention tips, plus MailOnline provides an overview of the research findings on soya and its implications for breast cancer...

What do the studies say about soya?

In 2002, a study found that women with a diet high in soya had less dense breast tissue than women with low soya diets. Higher density of breast tissue has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

The research was produced by Cancer Research UK, the National Cancer Institute of the USA, and the National University of Singapore.

Furthermore, many studies have shown that Asian women who eat the highest amounts of soya foods have a lower risk of breast cancer. According to Cancer Research UK: "In other parts of the world, most women don't eat enough soy to reduce their risk of breast cancer."

But soy foods have been linked to helping estrogen-receptive positive tumors grow and spread because isoflavones mimic the effects of the female hormone.

However, research published in March this year, scientists reported patients at any stage of the disease can reduce their risk of dying by 21 percent by adding the Japanese ingredient to their diet.

The link between soya and breast cancer has proved controversial. Photo / 123RF
The link between soya and breast cancer has proved controversial. Photo / 123RF

This is because the main ingredient found in soya, isoflavones, reduces tumor cells in women with breast cancer who don't respond to hormonal drugs, according to a team from Tufts University, in Massachusetts.

Dr Omer Kucuk, of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta, who reviewed the study, said: "We now have evidence soy foods not only prevent breast cancer, but also benefit women who have breast cancer.

"Therefore, we can recommend women to consume soy foods because of soy's many health benefits."

"Jury on soya is still out" says charity.

However, charity Breast Cancer Care said that research on the effects of soya is inconclusive.

Rachel Rawson, senior clinical nurse specialist, said: "Women shouldn't feel discouraged from including a moderate amount of soya as part of a well-balanced diet.

"However the jury's still out as to whether soya plays a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer developing.

"This Breast Cancer Awareness Month it's vital women and men get to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer - knowing these can lead to an earlier diagnosis, which in turn may save lives."

Sophia Lowes, from Cancer Research UK, said: "Women shouldn't worry that toxins in their home or food are linked to breast cancer. The only proven way that vacuuming and housework can reduce breast cancer risk is by helping people keep active.

"Keeping a healthy weight, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and keeping active are by far the best ways to reduce your risk."

Dr Funk's top 10 tips to prevent breast cancer

"These things are free-radical scavengers... Berries make cancer cells commit suicide", says Dr Funk. Photo / 123RF

1. Eat cruciferous vegetables every day

Consuming cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts have powerful anti-cancer preventing properties, according to Dr Funk. This is because of their glucosinolate content, which when broken or chewed, an enzyme called myrosinase converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates - which have anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic effects.

2. Consume antioxidant-rich berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all rich in antioxidants.
'These things are free-radical scavengers so, believe it or not, berries make cancer cells commit suicide,' said Dr Funk. 'I blend a cup a day into a shake.'

3. Add turmeric to meals or smoothies

The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which laboratory studies have shown does have anticancer effects on cancer cells.

Dr Funk says it is a breast health 'superfood' and can be easily consumed by adding to a smoothie.

4. Eat Indian Gooseberry

Often sold as 'AMLA powder,' Indian Gooseberry has the highest concentration of antioxidants on earth. It also improves metabolic activity, assists with calcium absorption and assists with improving eyesight.
5. Go mad for mushrooms

Button mushrooms are a great source of nutrients when it comes to breast cancer prevention. There is no evidence that any type of mushroom or mushroom extract can prevent or cure cancer, however, button mushrooms contain all the essential amino acids and are a good source of vitamins.

6. Add more soya to your diet

For years, doctors, including herself admitted Dr Funk, told breast cancer patients to avoid soya. However, since 2009, newer studies have shown benefits of soya products, including tempeh, tofu, edamame and soy milk.

7. Use regular bar soaps

The doctor recommends using old-fashioned bar soap instead of antibacterial soap can lessen the risk of toxins you are exposed to.

8. Buy organic fruit

Dr Funk recommends eating organic produce as often as you can. She said this is especially important with fruit or vegetables you consume with the skin on as it may have absorbed toxins.

9. Dust and vacuum your home regularly

Dusting and vacuuming is a great way to lessen the number of toxins in the air, according to Funk.

10. Fill your home with household plants

Many house plants naturally absorb toxins, Funk said.

Breast cancer symptoms

You should see your GP if you notice any of the following:

• A new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before
• A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
Bloodstained discharge from either of your nipples
• A lump or swelling in either of your armpits
Dimpling on the skin of your breasts
• A rash on or around your nipple
•A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

Breast pain isn't usually a symptom of breast cancer.

Source: NHS Choices