Q & A: How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer?
How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer?
Two of my friends have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer & I’m terrified I might be next. How can I prevent breast cancer?
Breast cancer affects nearly 1 out of every 8 women in the U.S. For some women the thought of breast cancer is one of their biggest fears. But although breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, there are some simple lifestyle modifications that can help reduce your risk:
1. Exercise: Women who do aerobic exercise regularly have a decreased incidence of developing breast cancer. Exercise helps with estrogen metabolism and reduces the amount of dangerous estrogen metabolites that are produced.
2. Managing stress: Chronic stress is a huge risk factor not only for heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other chronic diseases, but also cancer. Chronic, ongoing stress that is not managed well alters your cortisol levels and can affect estrogen metabolism. This in turn increases your risk for cancer. Learning some simple stress management techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can help you control your stress response and balance cortisol.
3. A healthy diet: This one seems obvious but with all the confusing and conflicting information about nutrition out there you may not know where to start. Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates increase insulin levels which can lead to estrogen dominance. Also, research has shown that cancer cells feed on sugar. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds contain phytochemicals, which naturally balance your hormones. They are also rich in fiber which helps with estrogen detoxification. I recommend eating 8-10 servings of fruits and veggies daily, with a wide variety of color.
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3’s have been shown to improve many aspects of health including cancer prevention. Eating flaxseed, chia seed, and several servings of cold water, wild caught fish each week can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Omega 3 fatty acids can also be taken as a supplement, just make sure you purchase a quality product as many fish oils on the market are rancid and may contain mercury.
5. Increase Fiber: Getting plenty of fiber in your diet helps with estrogen metabolism as well as insulin and blood sugar balance. I recommend 30-50 grams per day of soluble and insoluble fiber.
6. Avoid xenoestrogens: Xenoestrogens are chemical estrogens that are very stimulatory to the breast tissue, acting as a very strong estrogen. Many of these are found in cosmetic products, plastics, and pesticides.
7. Minimize alcohol: Alcohol should be avoided if you have a history of breast cancer. There is an increased risk of breast cancer in women who are heavy drinkers. I recommend no more than 1 drink per day in women and 2 per day in men.
8. Maintain a healthy weight: Fat cells can increase the amount of estrogen produced. If you are overweight I recommend working with your physician to establish a good diet and exercise program, as well as making sure there are no other underlying problems contributing to weight