Breast Cancer and the Environment

Breast Cancer and the Environment

Many of us know someone–a mother, a daughter, a friend–who has faced breast cancer. Considering that one out of nine Canadian women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime, it’s no wonder so many of us have been affected by this disease.

Many of us know someone–a mother, a daughter, a friend–who has faced breast cancer. Considering that one out of nine Canadian women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime, it’s no wonder so many of us have been affected by this disease.

Despite the so-called war on breast cancer, a woman’s risk for it has increased threefold in the last 40 years. So have the number of environmental chemicals we are exposed to. Coincidence? Not according to a 2006 report entitled State of the Evidence: What is the Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer?

The report, sponsored and published jointly by the Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action, states that every year in the US at least 1,000 more synthetic chemicals are added to the estimated 100,000 existing ones and that more than 90 percent have never been tested to determine their effects on human health.

Increasing evidence shows that many of these chemicals accumulate in body fat and remain in breast tissue for decades, internally contaminating our bodies with known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).

Chemical Consequences

Exposure to at least some of these many chemicals over the course of a woman’s life is certain. What is not certain is at what dose and at what point in development the cancer-causing damage may occur.

It’s not instantaneous, according to researchers Linda Birnbaum and Suzanne Fenton, who reviewed a broad selection of animal and human studies. They concluded that early exposure to industrial chemicals that mimic natural sex hormones (xenoestrogens) can “cause cancer and/or increase sensitivity to cancer-causing agents later in life.” Over the years, repeated exposure adds to the body’s accumulated burden of toxins and increases risk of breast cancer.

Clean It Up

Engaging regularly in a well-designed internal cleansing program can be especially helpful in supporting the body’s constant job of daily detoxification. A healthy diet of organic foods, antioxidant supplements, and omega-3 fats can support the body’s ability to neutralize cancer-causing compounds and protect healthy cells.

Environmental Risk Factors

Being aware of and avoiding the many environmental factors we may come in contact with every day is a critical step in reducing our risk for breast cancer. Many scientists consider the following sources to be the most dangerous environmental risk factors contributing to breast cancer.

  • 1,3 butadiene–an air pollutant from car exhaust and petroleum refineries
  • aromatic amines–found in the plastic and chemical industries; air pollution; diesel exhaust; tobacco smoke; grilled meats and fish
  • bisphenol-A (BPA)–used to make polycarbonate plastic
  • detergents
  • diethylstilbestrol (DES)–a hormone used until 1971 to prevent miscarriage
  • hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • hormones in oral contraceptives
  • household cleaning agents
  • organochlorines such as DDT
  • pesticides
  • petrochemical fuels
  • polyvinyl chloride (PVC)–found extensively in food packaging, medical products, cars (the “new car” smell), toys, and rainwear
  • radiation
  • solvents used in many manufacturing industries
  • some prescription drugs

Source: State of the Evidence: What is the Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer? (Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action, 2006)

Seventeen Breast-Friendly Foods

Research shows that eating breast-friendly, antioxidant-rich foods are protective against breast cancer. Be sure to regularly include these foods–organically grown–in your daily diet.

  1. apples
  2. blueberries
  3. citrus fruits
  4. cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel
  5. cranberries
  6. cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard, mustard greens)
  7. eggs
  8. flaxseeds
  9. garlic
  10. green tea
  11. leafy green vegetables
  12. legumes
  13. olive oil
  14. sea vegetables (kelp, wakame, nori)
  15. soy foods
  16. turmeric (curcumin)
  17. whole grains

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