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Strategies for Preventing Breast Cancer

By Marcel J. Hernandez, N.D.

Breast Cancer Awareness - Pink RibbonWhy is there a breast cancer epidemic in Western countries? Why do Asians have a much lower breast cancer rate? Why are more men contracting breast cancer than ever before? Is there a lifestyle connection with breast cancer?

There is a genetic component to some breast cancers. But having a genetic predisposition does not mean that the cancer gene will reach full expression and manifest in disease. Lifestyle changes can modulate and even prevent genes from expressing themselves. Here are some simple ways to stay healthy and cancer-free.

1. Don't wear underwire bras. In a 1995 publication, Dressed to Kill, the medical anthropologist authors found that women who wore tight-fitting bras day in and day out, had a much higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who went au naturel. The authors theorized that these bras inhibited lymphatic drainage and trapped toxins in the breast tissue, causing cancer. Although the underwire bra theory has not been scientifically studied, it makes sense that if you block the channels of elimination, toxic congestion will result.

2. Sleep in pitch black. Studies performed by the National Cancer Institute show that light at night interferes with the release of melatonin, one of the body's greatest natural defenses against cancer. Melatonin, secreted by the pineal gland in total darkness, both slows the growth of cancers and boosts the immune system.

3. Eat at least two cups of broccoli each week. A University of Michigan study found that indole-3 carbinol, a compound found abundantly in broccoli, promotes healthy estrogen balance in the body and protects breast cells. Broccoli sprouts are also a concentrated source of this compound, and are increasingly available at health food stores and farmer’s markets.

4. Avoid excess alcohol. Alcohol may be good for your heart in moderation, but drinking as little as half a glass of wine a day may raise the risk of developing breast cancer in susceptible women. This is according to a study performed at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The study added that regular, repeated use of alcohol greatly increases susceptibility to breast cancer, especially among post-menopausal women. For most women, having a glass of wine or beer on occasion is not a problem

5. Exercise. The National Cancer Institute reports that exercising four or more hours a week decreases hormone levels and helps lower breast cancer risk. The effect of exercise on breast cancer risk may be greatest prior to menopause, although post-menopausal women also benefit.

6. Avoid breast implants. This topic has been massively studied. Some clinical studies have found that women with breast implants have more advanced breast cancer at diagnosis than women without breast implants. This is thought to be due to the difficulty of doing effective self breast exam with implants in the way. Other studies have connected implants with connective tissue disorders, including scleroderma systemic lupus erythematosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome. Best to stay away from implants for these reasons.

7. Meditate. Meditation is both preventive and therapeutic. It decreases the stress hormone cortisol, increases the production of serotonin, the "happiness hormone" and improves immune system function. Women with breast cancer fight battles in their minds as well as their bodies. Practicing meditation regularly may calm the mind, increase alertness, and bring a person into a state of physical and psychological balance. Meditation can also ease the physical symptoms of nausea, pain, and anxiety.

8. Cleanse your liver twice a year and take probiotic supplements to aid healthy estrogen metabolism. The liver not only metabolizes toxins, it breaks down estrogen for excretion through bile into the digestive tract for elimination. Cleansing enhances the liver’s efficiency in this process. Healthy flora in the large intestine further assists in estrogen metabolism. See your favorite health care practitioner to help you develop a cleansing program tailored to your needs.

9. Practice skin brushing. Dry skin brushing, especially before a shower, improves lymphatic drainage. The lymph vessels transport excess, waste-charged fluid away from the intercellular spaces and return it to the bloodstream. Any blockage at the lymphatic level results in congestion throughout the whole lymphatic system. A home made video on dry skin brushing may be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoTBP_WJy9E&feature=related

10. Drink green tea. Green tea is anticarcinogenic at almost every level. Whereas dosages of 3 to 10 cups daily are used in high risk individuals and people with cancer, lesser amounts have preventive effect.

11. Stay away from environmental chemicals. Chemicals in plastic bottles, tin cans, cosmetic products, pesticides and more have been proven to disrupt endocrine function, and promote hormonally related cancers. Eat organic foods. Don’t store or microwave your food in plastic. Read the labels on personal care products, and be discerning.

12. Educate yourself on screening methods, from self breast exam to breast thermography to breast ultrasound to mammograms. Know your own breasts and observe changes. Many people find the privacy of the daily shower the perfect place to check their bodies. An excellent video on breast self exam may be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4edfuE2PwE

If what you find concerns you, seek professional screening and guidance.

Dr. Hernandez is happy to address your questions in this column. He may be contacted at HawaiiND@BigIsland.net.

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