By Dr. Dana Myatt
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I offer the latest medical updates on breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment with my "No B.S." (Bad Science), take-no-prisoners commentary. Let’s start with prevention.
Bogus Prevention: Mammograms
Mammograms are not prevention; they are “early detection.” But they’re not even good at what they are supposed to do.
In addition to the 30-50% of women who have unnecessary biopsies for “false negative results,” several large meta-analyses have shown NO DECREASE IN BREAST CANCER MORTALITY due to Mammograms (1).
Even if mammography was effective in lowering breast cancer rates, the 5-year overall survival rates for women with stage II breast cancer is 83.6%. This means that 16.4% of women diagnosed with stage II breast cancer will not live for 5 years.(2)
And guess what? One study this “pink ribbon” month of Oct. has shown that previous use of conventional hormone replacement therapy is not only associated with a significant increase in breast cancer risk, but the type of breast cancer is the more advanced, more difficult to treat kind, already metastasized to lymph nodes. (3)
More Problems with “Early Diagnosis”
An unbelievable 59% of women who die from breast cancer don’t actually die from the cancer, they die as a result of complications of surgery, typically within the first 30 days. These deaths are not currently counted in the “cancer-related deaths” statistics.(4)
If you read my “Why the Little Pink Ribbon Has Me Seeing Red” article, you already know that conventional diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer have lowered the mortality rate by a whopping 1.7% in the last decade or so, and all of this benefit appears due to women flocking away from conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in 2002-2003, not from mammograms or new treatments.
Instead of the “big deal” of 1.7%, let’s talk about some truly meaningful numbers ¬ ways to reduce breast cancer risk by upwards of 50% or more, all natural.
1.) Maintain a normal weight. If you won’t do that, at least consider losing some of your extra fat. Fat cells manufacture estrogen, and excess estrogen is a “smoking gun” for breast cancer. How much can you lower your risk? A Whopping 57% decreased risk for 22 pounds lost, even if you have much more than 22 extra pounds of fat. Learn more about the huge prevention benefits of weight loss, including the numbers, in my Little Pink Ribbon article.
2.) Exercise: even a little bit, which has many other health benefits besides, can dramatically lower your breast cancer risk. A total of 5 hours per week of moderate exercise, like walking, can lower breast cancer risk by an unbelievable 47%.
3.) Correct hormone imbalances, especially high estrogen, and avoid use of conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and birth control pills. (5,6) Get the full story here in my Little Pink Ribbon article.
4.) Nutritional supplements:
I.) Vit D: Women with vitamin D levels above 52 ng/ml have as much as a 50% reduction of breast cancer rates.(7)
Vitamin D testing is simple and inexpensive. So are vitamin D supplements.
II.) Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s – a.k.a. fish oil): One study found a 32% lower incidence of breast cancer in women taking fish oil supplements. (8,9) Because fish oil (specifically, EPA and DHA) are also beneficial to the heart, brain and bones, supplementation for every reason is recommended. Recommended dose: Maxi Marine O-3: 2 caps per day. “Regular” fish oil (lower potency): 6 caps per day.
III.) Lignans are a special type of fiber found in certain plants including flaxseed, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds, whole grains (rye, oats, barley), fruits (especially berries) and vegetables. Flax seed is one of the highest sources of lignans.
Lignans inhibits estrogen production, blocks estrogen receptors in a manner similar to tamoxifen, increases 2-OH estrone (considered a “good” kind of estrogen because it does not stimulate the growth of breast cancer), and lowers the risk of metastasis.(10,11)
An easy way to get high lignans in the diet is to consume ground flax seeds (flax seed meal). Try Dr. Myatt’s Bread recipe or Dr. Myatt’s Blueberry muffins for a quick, delicious way to get a big dose of nutrients, including flax seed meal, into your diet.
IV.) DIM’s: Diindolemethanes, the “magic” found in cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous veggies, helps the body process and clear excess estrogen. (12,13)
It is difficult to get enough DIM’s from diet alone, both because you would need to eat a large amount of cruciferous vegetables AND because heat destroys the active ingredient. Also, high doses of crucifers can lower thyroid function. Obtaining DIM’s from supplements is an easy way to achieve meaningful levels of DIMs without lowering thyroid function or turning into a Brussels sprout.
V.) Turmeric. Research has shown that turmeric inhibits breast cancer cell growth, prevents tumors from invading surrounding tissue, causes cancer cell death and increases effectiveness of chemotherapy while protecting against negative side effects. (14-17)
Other natural substances which show promise in breast cancer prevention: green tea, medicinal mushrooms, calcium glucarate.
Maintenance of a healthy weight, moderate exercise and a good diet supplemented with a few simple nutrients is far more powerful at preventing breast cancer than 100 mammograms and billions of dollars spent on cancer research.
1.) Gotzsche PC, Nielsen M. Screening for breast cancer with mammography. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001877. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001877.pub2.
2.) National Cancer Institute; http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html#incidence-mortality (see “Stage and Survival).
3.) Chlebowski, R. TheJournal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 20, 2010; vol 304: pp 1684-1692.News release, American Medical Association.Bach, P. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 20, 2010; vol 304: pp 1719-1720.
4.) H. Gilbert Welch and William C. Black. Are Deaths Within 1 Month of Cancer-Directed Surgery Attributed to Cancer? JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2002) 94 (14): 1066-1070. doi: 10.1093/jnci/94.14.1066.
5.) Farmer, P. “Xenobiotics and Cancer. Implications for Chemical Carcinogenesis and Cancer Chemotherapy.” Br J Cancer. 1992 December; 66(6): 1208.
6.) Gottleib, S. “FDA insists oestrogen products for menopause carry a warning.” BMJ. 2003 January 18; 326(7381): 126.
7.) Garland, C.F., et al. 2007. Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis., J Steroid Biochem Mol BiolMar;103(3-5):708-11.
8.) Brasky TM, Lampe JW, Potter JD, Patterson RE, White E. Specialty supplements and breast cancer risk in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jul;19(7):1696-708.
9.) Kim J, Lim SY, Shin A, Sung MK, Ro J, Kang HS, Lee KS, Kim SW, Lee ES. Fatty fish and fish omega-3 fatty acid intakes decrease the breast cancer risk: a case-control study. BMC Cancer 2009 Jun 30;9(1):216.
10.) Marina S. Touillaud, Anne C. M. Thiébaut, Agnès Fournier, Maryvonne Niravong, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault and Françoise Clavel-Chapelon. Dietary Lignan Intake and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk by Estrogen and Progesterone Receptor Status. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2007) 99 (6): 475-486.
11.) American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2008 Annual Meeting: Abstract 4162. Presented April 15, 2008.
12.) Wong, G,. et al., “Dose-ranging study of I-3-C for breast cancer prevention,” J. Cell Biochem 1997; 29-29:111-116.
13.) Fishman J., Schneider J., Hershcope RJ., Bradlow HL. Increased estrogen 16-alpha-hydroxylase activity in women with breast and endometrial cancer. J Steroid Biochem. 1984; 20(4B): 1077-1081.
14.) 14. Holy JM. Curcumin disrupts mitotic spindle structure and induces micronucleation in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Mutat Res. 2002 Jun 27;518(1):71-84.
15.) Shao ZM, Shen ZZ, Liu CH, et al. Curcumin exerts multiple suppressive effects on human breast carcinoma cells. Int J Cancer. 2002;98:234-40.
16.) Choudhuri T, Pal S, Agwarwal ML, Das T, Sa G. Curcumin induces apoptosis in human breast cancer cells through p53- dependent Bax induction. FEBS Lett. 2002;512:334-40.
17.) Ramsewak RS, DeWitt DL, Nair MG. Cytotoxicity, antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities of curcumins I-III from Curcuma long Phytomedicine. 2000;7:303-8.
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