Up to 20 percent of invasive breast cancers are classified as triple negative, which refers to the fact that the cancer is estrogen receptor negative (ER-), progesterone receptor negative (ER-), and HER2/neu negative. In other words, triple negative breast cancers do not express receptors for estrogen or progesterone and do not overexpress HER2. Triple negative breast cancer is also classified as basal-like breast cancer by some researchers.

Women diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer are more likely to be premenopausal than women with hormone receptor positive breast cancer. Treatments or foods that reduce the production of estrogen or block its effects in the body are not useful for this type of breast cancer. Women with metabolic syndrome are more likely to have triple negative breast cancer upon diagnosis than women without it. A high cholesterol diet has been shown to induce angiogenesis and accelerate mammary tumor growth in a mouse model of triple negative breast cancer. The type 2 diabetes drug metformin has been shown to reduce the metastatic potential of triple negative breast cancer cells.

The studies concerning diet or specific foods that relate to triple negative cancer focus on hormone receptor status; HER2/neu status tends to be studied separately. However, the information concerning ER-/PR- breast cancer and diet is likely to be relevant to triple negative breast cancer since HER2- is the "normal" state (see also our web page on HER2+ breast cancer if you have ER-/PR-/HER2+ breast cancer). There are specific foods that have been found to be associated with lower risk of this type of breast cancer and some that are associated with higher risk.

Foods that reduce the risk of triple negative or ER-/PR- breast cancer

The following foods and spices have been found to be associated with reduced risk of triple negative or ER-/PR- breast cancer:

Apples
Arugula
Bell peppers
Black pepper
Blackberries
Blueberries
Bok choy
Boysenberries
Broccoli
Brown rice
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Cherries
Collard greens
Cranberries
Cucumbers
Currants, black
Flaxseed
Garlic
Ginger
Grapes, red
Green tea
Herring
Honey, minimally processed
Horseradish
Hot peppers
Kale
Lake trout
Leeks
Lettuce, romaine
Mackerel
Mangoes
Mustard & mustard greens
Onions
Parsley
Peas
Pomegranate juice
Pumpkins
Raspberries
Reishi tea
Saffron
Salmon, wild
Sardines
Seaweed
Sour cherries
Spinach
Squash
Tomatoes
Turmeric
Turnips
Turnip greens
Walnuts
Watercress
Watermelon
Zucchini

One study reported that breast cancer patients with suboptimal levels (under 32 ng/mL) of vitamin D were three times more likely to develop triple negative breast cancer than patients with optimal levels. In other words, low vitamin D appears to increase the aggressiveness of breast cancer that develops.

Foods and supplements that increase the risk of ER-/PR- breast cancer

The following foods have the potential to increase the risk of ER-/PR- breast cancer:

Alcohol
Bacon and other processed meats
Beef and veal
Coffee (for premenopausal women, unless BRCA1 or BRCA2 carrier - see the coffee web page)
Copper supplements
Corn oil
Genistein supplements
Grape seed oil
Lamb
Pork
Resveratrol supplements
Safflower oil
Soybean oil
Sunflower oil
Fructose has also been shown to induce changes in triple negative breast cancer cells that may increase their aggressiveness, suggesting that patients should avoid beverages and other processed foods sweetened with fructose. Cigarette smoking is associated with significantly poorer outcomes for triple negative patients.

Foods that can help reduce or regulate blood sugar and insulin levels

The foods below have been shown to help regulate glucose, increase insulin sensitivity and/or reduce circulating insulin levels while also protecting against breast cancer. Consuming such foods may help reduce the likelihood or extent of metabolic syndrome.

Basil
Beans, dry
Flaxseed
Garlic
Hot peppers
Mushrooms
Olives and olive oil
Pumpkins
Rice, brown
Soybeans
Turmeric
Walnuts

Additional comments

It is important for triple negative breast cancer patients and survivors to eat a wide variety of the foods on our recommended food list and limit or avoid those on our avoid list, in addition to paying particular attention to the foods on the lists above.

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

Food for Breast Cancer triple negative breast cancer articles

Below are links to all of the other articles concerning triple negative breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer

Latest research concerning triple negative breast cancer prognosis

Prognosis of triple negative breast cancer compared to other breast cancer subtypes

Patterns of recurrence in triple negative breast cancer patients

Tumor characteristics influencing prognosis of triple negative breast cancer

Prognosis of African Americans and Latinas with triple negative breast cancer

Influence of BMI, metabolic syndrome and diabetes on triple negative breast cancer prognosis

Triple negative breast cancer prognosis according to age at diagnosis

To see all of the news stories and studies concerning triple negative breast cancer, click on the tripleNegative tag in the list of tags directly below.