October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – What might a cancer prevention diet look like?

Written by UConn Dietetics Student Danielle Straub

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated during October each year. During this month, you may see the selected color pink adorning the uniforms of your favoritepink ribbon for breast cancer awareness professional football team, or you may see road races highlighting participant survivors of the disease.  Your own town might be decorated with a touch of pink via lawn signs and ribbons. Every month of the year highlights a different cancer awareness, but overall day-to-day cancer prevention can start with your own diet.

Cancer prevention diet and ways to reduce cancer risk

Did you know 1 in 5 cancer cases are attributable to the combined effects of excess body weight, alcohol consumption, and smoking (1)? These factors are different from genetics in that you can help yourself change lifestyle and diet to lower your risk. According to the American Cancer Society, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life, adopting a physically active lifestyle, eating a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources, and limiting alcohol consumption can lower your relative risk for cancer (1).

vegetablesEating patterns with an emphasis on varieties of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish or poultry along with less red and processed meats are associated with a lower risk of cancer development (2). When choosing vegetables, reach for the ones rich in color: dark green, red, and orange (1). These bright-colored vegetables like apricots, cantaloupe, cherries, spinach, and kale are packed with a bunch of cancer-preventing nutrients! Fruits provide the most nutrients when in their whole form vs juice (1). Consider a handful of strawberries over a strawberry smoothie at the next opportunity. For lunch or dinner salads, see how many colors you can work in! Can you visualize purple cabbage, orange carrots, red tomatoes and green cucumbers? Such color!

Check out this recipe which includes whole wheat pasta and vegetables, giving you fiber and lots of nutrition!

Mediterranean whole wheat pasta salad

Ingredients: Mediterranean salad

  • 2 cups uncooked whole wheat rotini
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomato
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup chopped spinach (frozen, defrosted, and liquid squeezed)
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion

For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Ground black pepper to taste


  1. Cook the rotini as per the instructions on the box and then run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  2. If the sundried tomatoes are not in a jar ready-to-use and are dry, place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl. Heat a ½ cup of water to boiling or almost boiling and then pour over top the sundried tomatoes and let them sit for ~10 minutes to soften up.
  3. Remove the tomatoes from the water and then carefully slice them. Add to the mixing bowl the pasta along with the feta cheese, spinach, and red onion. Toss to combine.
  4. Now add the oil and vinegar and then season to your liking with pepper. Toss again. Pasta is now finished…eat and enjoy or refrigerate for later.


  1. Cancer Facts & Figures 2020. Cancer.org. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2020/cancer-facts-and-figures-2020.pdf. Published 2021. Accessed September 28, 2021.
  2. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(4).


This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

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