Radiation can result in side effects such as short-term fatigue, short-term and long-term skin damage, and injury to the heart and lungs. While obtaining relief from these side effects obviously is desirable, it is very important for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment to avoid consuming foods or taking supplements that will lessen the cytotoxic impact of radiation on breast cancer cells.

Therefore, the strategy we recommend during radiation treatment is to consume the foods recommended below, as well as those listed on the bland radiation diet (also below), while limiting or avoiding the foods that should not be consumed during radiation (as well as those on our avoid list). It is important not to drive up blood sugar and insulin levels with high carbohydrate/low fiber meals. Recent research suggests that limiting calories to some extent could heighten the treatment effects of radiation treatment. Please also see our article on the latest research on radiation treatment for information on types of radiation, impact on prognosis, and side effects.

Foods that enhance the effectiveness of radiation treatment

The following are good sources of compounds (apigenin, curcumin, epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG), quercetin, resveratrol, melatonin and vitamin D) that have been shown to increase the anti-cancer effects of radiation treatment (i.e., to increase the cancer cells' radiosensitivity) or, in the case of flaxseed, to protect against radiation damage without reducing its effectiveness:

Apples
Blueberries
Bok choy
Broccoli
Buckwheat
Celery
Cherries, especially sour or tart
Cranberries
Currants, black
Flaxseed
Garlic
Grapes and grape juice, red
Green tea
Greens
Kale
Leeks
Onions
Parsley
Raspberries
Tomatoes
Turmeric
Vitamin D
Walnuts

Foods and other products that should not be used during radiation treatment

Most of the foods and supplements listed below are good sources of compounds that have been found to protect cells against radiation treatment (i.e., they are radioprotective), which means that they might enable breast cancer cells to survive radiation. Lavender and tea tree oil are known breast cancer promoters, yet are used in some skin care products and inhalation aromatherapy during radiation treatment. The following should not be used during radiation treatment:

Genistein
Ginger
Kefir
Lavender
Mangoes
Mint
Multivitamins & antioxidant supplements
Red wine
Saffron
Soybean paste
Soy protein isolate
Soybeans
Tea tree oil
Tofu

Bland diet for use during radiation treatment

The list below de-emphasizes high-antioxidant and antimutagenic foods such as brightly colored fruits and vegetables, while featuring bland, as well as somewhat bitter-tasting foods, that do not promote cancer (when consumed in moderation). Select as wide a variety of these foods as possible and consume any one of them in moderation in addition to the foods recommended above.

Almonds, skinless
Apples, yellow
Bananas
Beans, white
Bread, whole grain
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Chicken, organic
Coconut, raw
Cucumbers
Green beans
Halibut
Herring
Honey, minimally processed
Lettuce, iceberg
Mackerel
Melons, pale winter
Olive oil
Peaches, white
Pears
Peas
Potatoes
Rice
Salmon, wild
Sardines
Turkey, organic
Vinegar, white
Yogurt, low-fat
Zucchini

Additional comments

We caution against taking apigenin, curcumin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), quercetin, or resveratrol in supplement form because of the possibility of unintended consequences. Safe and effective dosages for these supplements during radiation treatment have not been established.

Below are links to recent studies on this topic. For a more complete list of studies, please click on radiation treatment.