Can Avocados Cause Breast Cancer?

In the 2010s, photos of Pinterest-worthy and Instagrammable avocado toasts propelled the fruit into mainstream culture. By 2018, more than 2.4 million social media posts were avocado-related, making the superfood one of the most featured fruits online.

Also known as “alligator pear,” avocados are synonymous with good nutrition. Consumers cite “healthy fats” and overall “wellness” as reasons for loving the buttery and nutty fruit. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber, monounsaturated fats, potassium, folate, beta-carotene, and vitamins B6, C, E, and K (to name a few). But are the recent talks about avocado consumption causing breast cancer true? Let’s find out together.


Exploring the Avocado-Breast Cancer Connection

While avocados are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and anticancer activities, breast cancer patients, survivors, and others at high risk may experience opposing consequences. Here is the science behind the avocado-breast cancer link:


Role of Plant Sterols

Avocados possess anti-estrogenic effects that may reduce ER+ breast cancer risk in women. The presence of plant sterols known as beta-sitosterol in avocados competes with the hormone estrogen for binding to alpha (ERα) and beta (ERβ) receptors in the body. This competitive interplay may reduce the risk of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

On the one hand, this butter-textured fruit may impact estrogen levels through unclear mechanisms other than direct receptor binding. This unfamiliar territory obscures scientists’ understanding of how beta-sitosterol affects breast cancer risk.


Phytoestrogen Content

Avocados do not contain significant phytoestrogen levels. This naturally occurring compound is common in legumes and some cruciferous vegetables. It has estrogen-like effects, and its presence or absence in avocados raises questions about how they might influence hormonal balance and breast cancer risk.


Toxic Compounds in Avocado Leaves, Skin, and Pits

Research suggests that avocado leaves, skin, and pits have toxic compounds that may damage cells and spur cancer development. These cytotoxins include persin and tetrahydropterin, as well as various lauraceous acetogenins. Avocado’s yellow-green flesh has the lowest amount of these chemicals.

Although medical researchers may eventually use and develop these compounds into effective breast cancer treatments (some people already use them to soothe and heal skin problems), it is ideal to avoid them altogether. For example, do not roast avocados in their peels, and never use avocado leaves to wrap fish, poultry, or red meats for grilling. Consider substituting banana leaves instead.


Need for Further Research

Ultimately, the research on avocado consumption and breast cancer risk is lacking and often inconclusive. Establishing a direct cause-and-effect relationship between them is challenging due to the multifactorial nature of cancer development. Genetic disposition, lifestyle, and overall dietary patterns (e.g., excessive consumption of avocados along with processed meats, dairy, sugar, and other cancer-promoting foods) remain the central factors contributing to breast cancer occurrence.

Related: How to Check Yourself for Breast Cancer


Should You Avoid Avocados Anyway?

Avocados are nutrient-dense and offer multiple health benefits. However, based on the available and growing evidence, breast cancer patients, survivors, and anyone at high risk should limit consumption until further, more extensive studies provide substantial findings concerning avocados’ potential to cause breast cancer.

In addition, ensure to focus on a holistic approach to wellness. Eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, giving up alcohol or minimizing intake, and avoiding all controllable breast cancer risk factors are conducive to your overall well-being. Cutting out avocados from your diet will prove ineffective on its own.