Preventing Breast Cancer With Your Diet

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Breast cancer affects over 200,000 women in the U.S. each year and about 40,000 women die annually from breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Your lifestyle habits may determine if you will get breast cancer. WHICH LIFESTYLE FACTORS MAY INCREASE BREAST CANCER? The risk of breast cancer increases with age – as you get older your risk increases, but there are certain lifestyle factors that affect breast cancer and you do have some control over them. --Being overweight - Maintain normal weight/up to 10% weight gain; waist below 31” --Lack of exercise - Exercise almost every day to maintain normal estrogen levels --Excess Alcohol – alcohol increases estrogen; women should drink up to 1 drink/day --Poor diets – highly processed, refined foods with few fruits & vegetables raises risk Women with waist measurements greater than 34 inches were 30% more likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer than women whose waists measured less than 28 inches. Breast cancer risk increased due to the estrogens produced by fat tissue in the abdomen. Women over 40 who weigh close to what they did in their 20’s, are less likely to get breast cancer. Ideally gain no more than 10% of body weight during adulthood. If you weighed 120# in college, you should weight no more than 132# throughout adulthood. Women who gain more than 38 pounds during pregnancy had a 40% higher risk of developing breast cancer after menopause. The higher blood levels of estrogen during pregnancy fuel the growth of abnormal cells that become malignant years later. Physical activity protects women against breast cancer. Regular exercise reduces insulin levels which reduces the growth of abnormal cells, and exercise lowers circulating estrogen. The longer women breast feed, the more protection they have; 1 year cumulatively. Many, many studies have found a link between alcohol and breast cancer. Having just two drinks a day increases breast cancer risk by 40%. But American women who drink alcohol and also take the supplement folate, tend to have a lower risk for breast cancer. DO HIGH FAT DIETS INCREASE THE RISK OF BREAST CANCER? Not necessarily! Researchers analyzed dietary fat and have found no correlation between high fat diets and breast cancer, but they found certain fats like trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats and deep fried foods) & omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (corn oil and safflower oil) increase risk. Trans fat – bakery, fries, chips, candy bars Omega-6 fats – corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil Surprisingly, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found an association between high carbohydrate intake and breast cancer due to the elevated levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factors. Insulin contributed to higher circulating levels of biologically active estrogens. 90% of breast tumors are insulin-receptor positive and over-express insulin-like growth factors. SHOULD WOMEN EAT A LOW CARB HIGH PROTEIN DIET? Not necessarily. Researchers found the strongest association between sucrose and fructose and breast cancer. The recommendation is to significantly reduce your consumption of sweets and refined carbohydrates while increasing fiber. Insoluble fiber intake lowers breast cancer risk because it slows carbohydrate absorption and lowers glycemic response & insulin levels. WHAT FOODS HELP TO PREVENT BREAST CANCER? Certain foods may lower your risk, but no food has been found to prevent breast cancer 100%. Eggs – natural vitamin D – women who ate the most eggs when young had lowest risk Purple grapes – resveratrol prevents formation of excess estrogen – the darker the better Strawberries, raspberries and cherries – ellagic acid and anthocyanins bind carcinogens, stop cell division, detoxify & protect breast Cruciferous vegetables – indole-3 carbonal and sulphoraphane prevent and halt tumor growth Spinach and greens – carotenes and antioxidants boost immune system, detoxify and remove dangerous chemicals Fish and Flax – omega-3 fats and lignans that inhibit growth of mammary tumor cells