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Does olive oil reduce risk of breast cancer?

Olive oil: does it reduce breast cancer risk?
Olive oil: does it reduce breast cancer risk?

There is an article in the Sun newspaper today about how breast cancer sufferers can improve their chances of survival.

The article seems to confuse surviving breast cancer with reducing risk of it developing in the first place.

But this aside, it does contain useful advice about how women who are concerned about breast cancer can reduce their risk.

For example, it highlights how maintaining a healthy weight, being regularly physically active and breastfeeding can all reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

The only part we’d disagree with is the advice on olive oil. The Sun suggests olive oil can attack tumours and protect DNA and it even quotes a scientist as saying we should have 10 teaspoons of it a day.

But while olive oil does have other health benefits, there is no strong evidence it reduces risk of breast cancer.

The Sun seems to be basing the advice on a study from 2008 that found that a substance contained in olive oil has an effect on breast cancer cells. NHS Choices published a good blog post about this at the time but, in short, this was done in a laboratory setting and does not necessarily mean olive oil helps prevent breast cancer in the human body.

And we should also bear in mind that, whatever health benefits it has, olive oil also contains a lot of calories. So if you are having a lot of it, then you are more likely to be overweight.

This is a concern because scientists now say that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.