According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Society, 21,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 5,300 women will die from it. With these statistics in mind, it is important we work to reduce our risk of contracting this disease.
We hear a great deal about how important it is to have an annual mammogram, yet very little is said about risk factors for developing breast cancer and ways to decrease those risks. The following five suggestions can help protect you and your female friends and family members.
1. Reduce your estrogen load
The Women’s Health Initiative Study published in 2002 confirmed that taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases our risk of developing invasive breast cancer by 26 percent. By avoiding HRT and using natural remedies, including black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), and dong quai (Angelica sinensis), along with multivitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, some women can address hot flashes, night sweats, and the other symptoms of menopause safely.
Estrogen mimickers in our environment called xenoestrogens (pronounced zenoestrogens) found in plastics, pesticide and herbicide-laden foods, cosmetics, hair dyes, bleached feminine hygiene products, plastics, some prescription drugs, dry-cleaned clothing, and nail polish are disrupting our estrogen balance and increasing our risk of breast cancer. Yet most women do not know that common substances they use every day are increasing their risk. Avoid using these items or reduce their use.
2. Eat a cancer-protective diet
We know that poor diet plays a contributing role in risk for breast cancer. Insist on organic produce to reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens. Choose cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts; they contain indole-3-carbinol and sulphoraphane, known breast-cancer inhibitors.
Reduce your intake of sugar, as it suppresses the immune system. Eat organic dairy products and free range, grassland-fed meats that don’t contain xenoestrogens. Reduce the amount of animal products you eat, and choose more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Get enough essential fatty acids in your diet by using flaxseeds, high in lignans, which have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
3. Take the right nutrients
Calcium D-glucarate is a powerful detoxifier of excess estrogens from the liver and is important for both the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
Green tea extract contains polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids, shown to be protective against estrogen-dominant breast cancers.
Curcumin is the yellow pigment of turmeric, the chief ingredient in curry. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that works to inhibit cancer formation.
Lycopene, found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya, guava and watermelon, was recently shown to reduce risk of breast cancer by 36 percent when 6.5 mg/day was taken.
Sulphoraphane, from broccoli sprout extract, has been shown to stimulate the body’s production of detoxification enzymes that eliminate xenoestrogens.
4. Check prescription drugs
Check that prescription or over-the-counter medications are not linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (June 2005) suggests that taking some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on a long-term, daily basis raises the risk of breast cancer.
We know that NSAIDs cause liver problems, and the liver is the key organ for hormone metabolism in the body. The development of breast cancer is closely linked to hormone levels and their fluctuations.
A paper published in the Journal of Cancer (June 2002) suggests that women prescribed some tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) to treat depression show an elevated risk of breast cancer 11 to 15 years later. The women’s prescription records were studied to track their exposure to 10 different tricyclic antidepressants preceding their diagnoses of breast cancer. The researchers thought the greater-than-10-year delay between TCA exposure and the increased incidence of breast cancer indicated that the drugs might be acting as tumour initiators.
The six TCAs that were shown to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer were amoxapine, clomipramine, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, and trimipramine. The four TCAs that were not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in this study were amitriptyline, maprotiline, nortriptyline, and protriptyline. If you need anti-depressant medication it makes sense to choose one of the latter.
5. Improve your lifestyle
- Exercising three times a week may reduce your risk of breast cancer.
- Breast feeding has been shown to be a powerful protector from breast cancer.
- Laughing improves the cancer-fighting ability of your immune system.