Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), which is characterized by involvement of the skin and the lack of a solid tumor mass, accounts for up to 3% of breast cancers. IBC is more likely to be HER2 and EGFR overexpressing than ductal or lobular invasive breast cancer, the most prevalent types of breast cancer. Patients with IBC tend to be younger than patients with other types of breast cancer (the majority of IBC patients are 40 to 59 years old) and they are also somewhat more likely to be African American or pregnant at the time of diagnosis.

Because IBC is so rare, no population studies have investigated the associations between IBC and consumption of specific foods. However, there have been a few laboratory studies that have demonstrated the impact of food extracts on IBC cells in the laboratory. IBC patients who are overweight might lower their risk of recurrence by losing weight. Regular exercise has also been found to be associated with lower risk of metastasis of breast cancer, even in the absence of weight loss.

Very little research on diet exists that specifically mentions inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer patients and survivors should also refer to our articles concerning breast cancer subtypes (e.g., ER+/PR+, triple negative, HER2+) for additional information on diet.

Foods that reduce the risk of inflammatory breast cancer

Extracts of the foods listed below have been reported to oppose the growth or progression of inflammatory breast cancer:

Bok choy
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage, white or red
Collard greens
Green tea

Mustard greens
Pomegranate juice & pomegranate juice
Reishi mushroom
Turnip greens

The following foods have components that have been shown to inhibit the EGFR receptor. These foods have also been associated with reduced risk of breast cancer in general.

Bok choy
Brussels sprouts
Carrots, purple
Collard greens
Grapes, red
Green tea

Hot peppers
Mustard greens
Pomegranates & pomegranate juice
Red cabbage
Red onions
Seaweed, brown

Preliminary evidence suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D are particularly important in inhibiting the metastasis of IBC. Recent research suggests that statins (used to lower cholesterol), can improve progression-free survival in women with inflammatory breast cancer.

Copper could promote the growth of inflammatory breast cancer

Circulating copper levels have been shown to correlate with tumor incidence and burden. Inducing copper deficiency reduced tumor growth and angiogenesis in a mouse model of IBC. We recommend avoiding the consumption of the following high-copper foods:

Calf's liver or veal liver
Beef liver
Lamb liver
The following foods and supplements also have significant levels of copper and should be limited or avoided:

Shellfish, especially oysters, squid & lobster
Sesame seeds & sesame oil
Products made from defatted soy flour, such as soy protein isolate & textured soy protein
Chocolate, cocoa powder & hot chocolate
Nuts, especially cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachio nuts & pine nuts
Sunflower seeds
Pesto, basil
Pumpkin seeds
Sun dried tomatoes
Copper jewelry and jewelry made from copper alloys, such as red gold and pink gold, are another potential source of copper exposure. It has been demonstrated that copper bracelets can deliver copper and other minerals through the skin. Living near copper and gold mining or smelting operations or working with copper can also increase copper exposure. Note that while outright copper deficiency is rare in the U.S., women with low iron stores are at risk of anemia if they do not have adequate copper intake.

Antiperspirants containing aluminum compounds should be avoided

Most antiperspirant sprays, sticks, and roll-ons contain aluminum chlorohydrate or other aluminum salts to block the secretion of sweat. The aluminum in such preparations has been shown to enter through the skin in tiny amounts and accumulate in all types of breast tissue. Applying an antiperspirant to skin that is scraped, cut or irritated (such as may occur after shaving) can result in far higher exposures. Aluminum has been shown to cause DNA damage and to induce inflammatory responses within the breast. Given the increase in inflammation induced by aluminum, IBC patients should probably entirely avoid using aluminum-containing antiperspirants and deodorants.

Additional comments

It is important for inflammatory 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 above. Please see our article on how to optimize your breast cancer diet for information on what to eat during all stages of treatment and recovery.

Below are links to recent studies on inflammatory breast cancer. For a more complete list of studies, please click on the tag IBC.