Preventing breast cancer
For many of the women, a fear of breast cancer is often almost as much to do with self-image as it is with illness.
In the USA, the number of women with breast cancer is second only to the number of those with skin cancer. However, women everywhere are gaining awareness of how to arm themselves against this disease; just as the medical profession is improving its ability to fight it.
Checking your breasts could save your life – there’s no more direct way to put it. Most breast lumps are picked up by women themselves rather than as a result of screening. If you notice any changes to your breasts, experience any continuous pain in them, or feel any lumps that aren’t’ part of your normal cycle, see your doctor right away. Although serious problems are rare, it’s important to rule them out. There have been concerns in recent years regarding the safety and effectiveness of mammograms, so discuss the option of an ultrasound with your doctor.
So far, we don’t know for certain what causes breast cancer. However, there are certain risk factors that may put you at greater risk than others of developing the disease. Some of these risk factors we can do something about, and some we can’t. it’s important to keep everything in perspective to minimize the risks, but not to the detriment of living happily.
Being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, and lack of exercise are all risk factors that we have under our control, however age is also an important risk factor (breast cancer becomes more common after the age of 50). Heredity makes a different, too – if you have a family history of breast cancer, you may carry the BRCA genes, which are known to increase the risk of breast cancer development. If you tell your doctor of your family history, you may be referred for genetic testing. Some women who know they have a BRCA gene have opted for an elective mastectomy, but his need not necessarily be your only option for prevention. Finally, there is overwhelming evidence that the female hormone estrogen plays a central role in causing beast cancer – women with excess estrogen appear to have a higher risk than women with normal levels.
Go Japanese Women in Japan have a much lower breast-cancer risk than women in the West: 39 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 Japanese women compared with 133 per 100,000 for Western women. Experts have suggested that the reason is dietary. Japanese women eat more phytoestrogens than Western women. One large study showed that a diet high in soy is associated with a 14 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer. Phytoestrogens in soy seem to black the estrogen receptors in your breast tissue (in a similar way to the drug tamoxifen), perhaps preventing the disease. They also stimulate the production of a protein called sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which controls how much estrogen circulates in your blood. Although phytoestrogens are found in their highest concentrations in soy products, other healthy sources include chickpeas, lentils, aduki beans, kidney beans, and other legumes. Japanese women also tend to eat more fish than Western women, especially oily fish. This boosts their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which inhibit tumors.
Eat cruciferous vegetables Vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower can help prevent estrogen overload because they contain a chemical called indole-3-carbinol that encourages the body to eliminate excess estrogen and prevents it from absorbing toxic estrogen. One study found that women eating one and a half cups of these vegetables daily decreased their breast-cancer risk by a quarter.
Eat fiber High-fiber foods encourage better elimination of waste products and toxins, including estrogens, from the body. Aim for 40g (1 ½ oz.) fiber a day. Switching to a mainly vegetarian diet with an abundance of fruit and vegetables would give your fiber intake a fabulous boost. If you can, add in one or two handfuls of high-fiber flax seeds, which also contain lignans. These stimulate SHBG and inhibit the activity of aromatase, an enzyme that encourages the body to convert more male hormones to estrogen. (Some breast-cancer medications are aromatase inhibitors, which aim to stop the body converting testosterone to estrogen).
• Folic Acid (400ug, daily, perhaps in a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement) Studies show that people with a daily intake of 345ug or more folic acid (itself a B-vitamin) have a 38 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than women with an intake of less than 195ug.
• Probiotics (containing at least ten billion organisms per capsule) One study has found that probiotics can help prevent the re-absorption of “old” estrogens from the colon, encouraging better elimination of these toxins from your body.
• Black Cohosh This herb acts as a weak anti-estrogen, and reaearch indicates that it amy be able to slow the rate at which breast-cancer cells multiply. Take black cohosh either as a tincture (1 tsp. in a little water, two or three times daily) or in capsule form (250-350mg, daily)