by Lisa Marshall
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly 40,000 will die annually of the disease. But at least 38 percent of those diagnoses could be prevented via diet and lifestyle changes, affirms the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
“For decades, the dominant public message about breast cancer has been about early detection,” says Dr. Robert Pendergrast, an associate professor at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta, and author of Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risk with Foods You Love. “Screening is important, but not nearly enough attention is being paid to prevention.” Here’s what we can do to keep cancer at bay or from recurring.
Eat more veggies: Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, are loaded with indole-3-carbinol, or I3C, a potent anticancer compound that helps break down excess estrogen and convert it into a more friendly, or benign form, says Steelsmith. One study in Alternative Medicine Review found that women that ate high amounts of cruciferous vegetables were 30 percent less likely to develop breast cancer over 30 years. I3C can also be taken as a supplement (300 milligrams [mg] per day).
Eat more fiber, especially flax: Fiber, via whole grains, fruits and vegetables, helps flush out toxins including unfriendly estrogen. Flax contains cancer-fighting compounds called lignans, which block the effects of excess or unfriendly estrogen on cells.
Drink less alcohol: Alcohol boosts estrogen levels in women and is broken down in the liver to acetaldehyde, a known toxin that causes cancer in laboratory animals, says naturopath Laurie Steelsmith. According to the AICR, a woman that has five drinks per week boosts her risk by 5 percent. Two or more drinks per day boosts such risk by more than 40 percent.
Skip the barbecue: Charring meat produces carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines. A study of 42,000 women, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that those who routinely ate well-done hamburger, beef or bacon had four times the risk of those that opted for medium or medium-rare.
Keep weight in check: Excessive estrogen, which lives in fat cells, fuels cancer risk. According to the AICR, a woman with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 (obese) has a 13 percent higher risk of cancer than a woman with a BMI of 25 (slightly overweight).
Spice up life: Curcumin from the turmeric plant has been shown in many studies to have potent immune-boosting and anticancer properties, reactivating sleeping tumor-suppressor genes that can kill cancer cells.
De-stress: Growing evidence that includes studies from Ohio State University suggest that stress can boost the risk of breast cancer and recurrence, plus heighten its aggressiveness by altering hormones and impairing immunity. One study from Finland’s University of Helsinki followed 10,808 Finnish women for 15 years and found as much as double the rate of breast cancer among those that had experienced a divorce or death of a spouse or family member.
Drink green tea: It’s loaded with epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a potent antioxidant believed to suppress new blood vessel growth in tumors and keep cancerous cells from invading healthy tissue.