"Your biopsy tests positive for breast cancer." These is a sentence feared by all women. In 1971 President Nixon declared war on cancer. Since then billions of dollars have been spent on fighting cancer. It seems the only arsenal this war has come up with are the antiquated weapons of poison, slash and burn. There is still no cure. Very little of the money used for the war on cancer is used for cancer prevention. Yet it is far easier to prevent cancer than to cure it.
Cancer is a systemic disease. This means that even if the cancer has manifested itself in your breast tissue, the actual problem is system wide. Because of this, breast cancer can't be prevented solely by specifics. It requires an entire lifestyle change.
Having said that, there are number of changes you can make to your lifestyle that will reduce your risk of getting breast cancer (and all other cancers). I have chosen, what I consider to be, the most effective to share with you.
Before I list them for you, it would be helpful for you to understand what cancer actually is. Jane Plant, "Your Life in Your Hands", describes cancer as "Cells behaving badly." Our cells operate under the control of the genes in our DNA. These cells grow and divide in a controlled way to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells.
However, sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. The DNA of a cell can become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. When this happens, cells do not die when they should and new cells form when the body does not need them. These mutated cells thrive in an anaerobic environment and get their energy from metabolic waste. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumour.
By definition, a cancer cell is a normal, healthy cell that has undergone genetic mutation to the point that it can live in an anaerobic surrounding (an environment where oxygen is not available). In other words, if you deprive a group of cells of vital oxygen (their primary source of energy), some of them will die, but others will manage to alter their genetic software program and mutate in a most
resourceful way: the cells will be able to live without oxygen and derive some of their energy needs from such things as cellular metabolic waste products.
Only five to ten percent of all breast cancers are due to genetic predisposition and over 70% of all gene mutations are caused by environmental factors. This puts you in a very powerful position to be able to significantly reduce your risk of the gene mutations that cause breast cancer.
I have listed the suggestions starting with the most important and most effective:
Eat a whole-food, plant-based diet with lots of raw foods: Diet is the most prevalent cause of genetic mutation. It can also provide the greatest protection against cancer. But which diet? Studies carried out by Dr Dean Ornish show that our blood has powerful anti-cancer compounds. That's a good thing. Even those on a Standard American Diet (SAD) have blood that fights cancer. However, the blood of vegans (those who consume no animal products what-so-ever) decreased cancer growth by nearly 8 times over the blood of those consuming the Standard American Diet. Another study conducted at Loma Linda University found that vegans have 34% lower rates of breast cancer to other women. Other dietary factors include: sugar consumption processed foods, gluten, chemical additives, transfats and over-eating.
Give up drinking alcohol: One alcoholic drink per day increases your risk of getting breast cancer by seven to ten percent. Not only that but breast cancer survivors who consume three to four drinks a week increase their risk of a recurrence by 34%.
Give up smoking: Although smoking is usually associated with lung cancer, the carcinogens in cigarettes affect the whole system. Women who smoke are 24 times more likely to get breast cancer. The risk doubles if those women start smoking before having their first baby and increases to 61 times more likely if they start smoking before their first mentrual period.
Engage in a high level of physical activity: Women who exercise for more than three hours a week reduce their risk of breast cancer by 25%.
As many breast cancers are estrogen dependent, it makes sense to minimise your exposure to estrogen. Two studies published in 2002 and 2003 link HRT to a higher incidence of breast cancer.
Supplement wisely: Three quarters of all women with breast cancer are vitamin D deficient. Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels decreases your risk by 45%. Ensure your vitamin D levels are optimal through regular blood tests and if they're not take a supplement. Those with diets rich in DHA Omega 3 fatty acids are two thirds less likely to get breast cancer. We usually think of fish for our Omega 3. But flaxseeds have shown special protective factors due to their content of dietary lignans, a class of phytoestrogens, which have an anti-estrogen effect. Conversly, artificial folic acid (in the form of supplements) has been shown to increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. So obtain all your follic acid from natural, food sources - green leafy vegetables.
Watch your weight: Obesity is said to be the primary cause of 17% of all breast cancers, especially after menopause. Luckily, if you follow the dietary and exercise suggestions listed here, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is easy.
Don't fry or grill foods: Cooking at high temperatures without water or steam creates acrylamides in carbohydrate foods (eg.chips) and heterocyclic amines in meat (especially chicken). Both these substances are highly carcinogenic.
Have two or more children and breast feed them for up to two years each: When we are pregnant and breast feeding we are exposed to lower levels of estrogen, which in turn, lowers our risk of breast cancer.
Avoid unnecessay radiation: This includes radiation caused by imaging tests, such as xrays (including mammograms), CT scans, PET scans and bone scans. Remember that mammograms are not preventative and cumulative radiation exposure over a person's life time includes exposure from this breast cancer detection tool. Alternatives to mammograms, that are not publised or encouraged by the medical profession for breast cancer detection, include: thermography, MRI and ultrasound. If you are serious about preventing breats cancer, this is something you should look into and discuss with your doctor. My hope is that these suggestions will not overwhelm you but empower you to start making changes and keep making them.
Remember that permanent change is best accomplished with baby steps. This is what holistic health coaching can help you with by providing information, encouragement and accountability to keep you moving forwards towards your health goals.
Cath King is a nutritionist and holistic health coach who specializes in creating optimal health on plant-based diets. She has had success in helping clients reverse cancer, diabetes, crohns disease, ulcerated colitus, heart disease and obesity. Her clinic "Seeking Health" is in New Zealand. Contact her through http://ckinghealth.webs.com/