Is there a connection between what you eat and breast cancer?
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, News 12 is looking at the connection between what you eat and the deadly disease.
Marlena Horton, an elementary school music teacher in northern Westchester says she didn't pay much attention to her diet before getting her stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis in January 2017.
"It was kind of a mess. I ate a lot of sugar, I ate meat, and I just snacked all the time," she says.
She says those days are over now.
"I have a lot of lentils, I have a lot of avocado, I have a lot of edamame, I just stay away from anything meat-based," she says.
The wife and mother of two switched to a plant-based diet after successfully undergoing treatment for her cancer and participating in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
"Nutrition and exercise are things that are under our control, which we can wield almost as medications, to reduce the risk of developing cancer," says Dr. Neil Iyengar, oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Iyengar is also a leading researcher on the relationship between diet, metabolism and cancer.
"When you observe large populations of people, the folks that are eating a plant forward diet, a high fiber plant forward diet have lower rate of breast and several other cancers," says Iyengar.
Horton says the switch has been life-changing. She now has more energy, signed up for the Brooklyn half-marathon and even hiked at Denali National Park in Alaska over the summer.
Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering say they're also studying the popular ketogenic diet, which is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
They say data so far shows it may only be useful for a very specific type of breast cancer.