by guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine pioneer
Over the past decade, real progress has been made in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. We now have more sophisticated tools to better understand, assess, and defeat this devastating disease. Even though we are making headway, it’s important to remember we may never completely prevent or cure this disease. We must stay vigilant to continue refining and redefining our breast cancer approaches for greater prevention and survival rates.
For example, yes, there is a genetic component to breast cancer, but data suggests that 90 to 95 percent of cases are not hereditary. This means that while there are specific cancer-causing genes that influence the growth and spread of tumors, these genes were not necessarily inherited so much as activated by specific external factors: age, diet, environment, lifestyle, and many other potential triggers. While risk factors like age cannot be mitigated, other risk factors can be eliminated or reduced to help prevent the development of breast cancer.
Five things to avoid to prevent breast cancer:
- Unnecessary radiation. Radiation is everywhere, from cellphones, microwaves and wireless electronics to more harmful (ionizing) radiation from X-rays, CT scans, and nuclear reactors. Regular exposure to various types of radiation can damage DNA, increase inflammation, and disrupt critical biological functions, so it should be avoided whenever possible. In particular, CT scans produce 500 times more radiation than standard X-rays, so be sure the scan is absolutely necessary before you consent to one.
- Overexposure to toxins. We are regularly exposed to pesticides, heavy metals, environmental toxins, and estrogen-mimicking compounds in our food, in our households, and in some cases, even just being outdoors. These cancer-causing agents dial up the risk of cancer through various health-robbing effects, including those similar to radiation. Essentially, they mutate DNA, disrupt cell signaling, and impair numerous critical functions on the molecular level.
- Bad personal habits. Personal choices are critically important. Smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and inadequate sleep are all proven cancer risk factors. By replacing these risk-increasing behaviors with healthier habits you can significantly boost your prevention efforts. If you are actively fighting cancer, then eliminating these risk factors can help improve your prognosis.
- Poor diet choices. We have long known that red meat and fried foods are associated with increased cancer risk. Also, sugar feeds inflammation and tumor growth. On the other hand, a nutrient-dense whole foods diet, high in fruits and vegetables, provides natural antioxidants that are shown to help prevent cancer. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, are especially beneficial because they contain multiple compounds that act specifically against cancer and help balance hormones. A low-glycemic (low-sugar) diet, combined with physical activity, has also been shown to protect against cancer risk. And as always, consistent hydration with plenty of pure, filtered water is wise.
- Uncontrolled stress. Never forget the role stress plays in fueling cancer. A number of published studies link chronic stress, pessimism, and anxiety to increased cancer risk and poor clinical outcome in breast cancer patients. So use your available tools to keep stress at bay: long walks, yoga, meditation, and time with friends and family, for example. Do the things that bring you joy and satisfaction. Remember, cancer hates positivity. Kill it with kindness and never give in to pessimism.
We are seeing the most successes against breast cancer in highly individualized programs that take into account a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. The goal is to strategically combine a number of approaches that can work together synergistically to fight and prevent cancer, while simultaneously supporting a patient’s health from multiple angles.
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz has a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more information about his work, visit dreliaz.org.
I would add:
1. Do not take Hormone Replacement Therapy. This may actually be the most important.
2. Breastfeed totally and for 1 year minimum with each baby.
For women, I’d add breast feeding! I’ve read that breast feeding for a total of 7 years can pretty much eliminate your risk of breast cancer entirely. Here is an article from the La Leche League, the international woman-to-woman breastfeeding support group (I am not a leader, but I did attend meetings when my son was nursing). http://www.lalecheleague.org/release/cancer2.html
I agree with all of it but doctors will often refute the part about CT scans. You can ask and they will smoothly assuage your concerns. And as for hormone therapy, I think the kind you take can be a key factor. Many studies tell you the evils of Prempro but there is a lot less definite info on the other forms of HRT.