Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer: Overview

Breast cancer is the most common cancer occurring among women in the United States.  The incidence of breast cancer increases with age, rising sharply after age 40.  Nearly 80% of invasive breast cancers in the United States occur among women 50 years of age and older.  Some 14% (and rising) of all women in America will develop breast cancer, which is behind only lung cancer in its mortality rate.

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If you are at increased risk for breast cancer, actions you can take now will make a great difference in whether you actually get it or not.  Natural medicine has much to offer to effectively reduce your risk.  Now is the time to take action in order to prevent a potentially devastating disease from making you a statistic.  Study the subject if you can, plan a course of action with your doctor, and take action.  The actions you take now can reward you for years to come.

Once cancer cells overcome your immune system's ability to kill them, their number will increase until even with immune system enhancement or stimulation, the situation will not easily be reversible by natural means.  Different breast cancer cell lines reproduce at a different rate.  When the reproduction rate is slow, there can be a long period, months or years, in which cancer cells exist, but their numbers are low.  Even at this time, those cells can be killed by natural means.

Men can develop breast cancer, although the incidence is very low (less than 1%).

Incidence; Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors

Women represent 99% of all breast cancer patients; about 65% of women with breast cancer are over 55 years old when they are diagnosed.  The incidence of breast cancer has been increasing dramatically, with it now being the second-most common cause of death and the most common cancer in American women.  Approximately 270,000 breast cancer cases and 40,000 deaths were occurring in the U.S.  by 2005.  Lifetime risk for American women climbed from 1 in 12 in 1970 to 1 in 7 in 2005.

Although the causes of breast cancer have not been fully exposed, it has become clear that hormonal manipulation may have a therapeutic impact on the course of the disease.  This is why the tumors, when removed during surgery, are studied to find whether or not they are estrogen-receptor positive or negative.  If the cancer is estrogen-receptor positive, theoretically there should be a response to manipulation of estrogen.

Not all women have the same risk of developing breast cancer.  While any woman can develop the disease, certain factors do put some women statistically at greater risk:

  • Previous history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer.  This is particularly pertinent if a woman's mother or sisters had the disease.
  • Early onset of menstrual periods increases risk by affecting the amount of reproductive hormones a woman is exposed to during her lifetime.
  • Late menopause – Women who menstruate for more than 40 years seem to be at particular risk.
  • Postmenopausal age.  Most breast cancers occur after age 50.
  • Being childless or having a first child after age 30.  In contrast, having children at a younger age and breastfeeding decreases risk.
  • Bottle feeding.  Women who nurse their children appear to be at lower risk.
  • Certain types of "atypical" cell patterns with benign (noncancerous) breast disease.
  • High fat diet – this seems to be a risk factor for some women.
  • Obesity – a high-fat and overly-rich diet causes women to be overweight, which again is a risk factor.
  • There is increasing evidence that smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke increases risk.
  • Alcohol use – more than nine drinks per week significantly increases the risk; 2 alcoholic beverages per day increases risk by 21% and the risk continues to climb with increased consumption.
  • Being tall
  • Dense breast tissue (including fibrocystic breasts) increases risk
  • Being wealthy
  • High levels of radiation in the chest area before the age of 30
  • Prolonged estrogen use / elevated estrogen levels
  • Exposure to unnatural chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides.
  • Urban lifestyle
  • Race: After age 45, white women are more likely to develop breast cancer than black women, but black women have a higher incidence before age 45 and are more likely to die from breast cancer.
  • Physical inactivity (a sedentary lifestyle) increases risk.

Note: Study after study also shows that the concentration of carcinogens in human breast milk declines steadily as nursing continues.  Thus the protective effect of breast-feeding on the mother appears to be a direct result of downloading a lifelong burden of carcinogens from her breasts into the tiny body of her infant.  This is why a breast-fed infant receives its so-called "safe" lifetime limit of dioxin in the first six months of drinking breast milk.  The presence of these carcinogens may be associated with the increasing risk of breast cancer women are facing today.  The importance of avoiding such contaminants is causing many women to turn to more natural living and eating practices in order to prevent diseases such as breast cancer.

Estrogenic Effects of Sunscreen
A 2001 study by the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich Switzerland explored the possible estrogenic effects of sunscreens.  They examined six frequently used UVA and UVB screens for estrogenicity and found five of the six increased cell proliferation in breast cancer cells.  These were:

  • benzophenone-3 (Bp-3)
  • octyl-dimethyl-PABA (OD-PABA)
  • homosalate (HMS)
  • 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
  • octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC)

Butyl-methoxydibenzoylmethane (B-MDM) was the only inactive UV blocking chemical.  The researchers concluded that UV screens should be tested for endocrine activity, in view of possible long-term effects in humans and wildlife.  [Environ Health Perspect 2001 Mar;109(3): pp.239-44)]

The findings from a Danish study of more than 117,000 women found that girls who were overweight at puberty had a lower risk of breast cancer.  The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2004), also notes that overweight girls tend to start menstruating earlier which is known to increase the risk.  But the new findings suggest that this effect is outweighed by the estrogen hormones produced by the extra fatty tissue which alter the growth of the breast.

After the menopause, overweight women are at higher risk of breast cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

Breast cancer is often discovered by the woman herself on breast examination or by her physician during a medical visit.  A woman can usually feel a hard, non-tender mass that is not particularly movable within her breast tissue.  Other signs of breast cancer can include swelling, dimpling, or redness of the breast tissue.  If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the armpit or above the collarbone, they may feel enlarged and hard.

Regular screening can help you determine how aggressively to try to prevent or treat a cancer that is detected early.

Diagnosis and Tests

Mammography is not the only screening test available, and may not be as useful as commonly thought.  There is an alternative medical technique that is able to detect breast cancer earlier: advanced thermography.  Thermography uses natural infrared radiation from the body and, by measuring temperature variations, can spot abnormalities.  Without using any ionizing radiation or mechanical pressure, the latest thermographic equipment can see breast cancer developing before mammography could image a tumor.  Thermography accomplishes this because it is able to detect the beginnings of angiogenesis, when cancer cells first try to form their own blood supply – a necessary step before they can grow rapidly and metastasize.

In a recent Dutch review of 8 studies, it was found that only 2 of them meet adequate randomization requirements.  These two studies indicated that mammography, one of the most widely used screening tests for breast cancer, is next to useless in reducing the death rate from the disease.  Additionally, the risk of some types of breast cancer is increased by regular mammogram screening.  Some researchers believe that the breast compression experienced during mammography may promote metastases.

The definitive diagnosis of breast cancer can only be made by doing a surgical biopsy.  This allows the tissue sample removed from the breast to be looked at under the microscope and examined for cancerous cells.

A test that can detect breast cancer many months prior to any clinical manifestation is available.  This safe FDA approved test, though still not commonly known, can give you the early warning that is needed to successfully prevent what is viewed by some doctors as inevitable.  This preferred test is called AMAS (Anti-Malignin Antibody Screen) and is available for doctors worldwide through Oncolab.  According to Dr. Bogoch, its founder, a large scale study demonstrated it is 95% accurate on the first test, and 99% when repeated in breast cancer.  The test can detect cancer up to 19 months before conventional medical tests can find it.  If your doctor does not know about this test, continue looking until you find someone who does – information is available on the Internet.  The test involves taking a blood sample and requires special processing.  It is also useful for monitoring treatments: the test should become less positive if the treatments are working.

Prognosis

While the incidence of breast cancer has been increasing, breast cancer mortality has slowly declined.  Breast cancer mortality should be kept in perspective with two other leading causes of death among women.  Since 1987 lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer in causing deaths, attributed to the increase in smoking among women.  Heart disease is still the greatest threat to older women and causes four times the number of deaths as breast cancer in women over the age of 55.

Generally, the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed is critical because survival rates increase dramatically with earlier detection.  The five year U.S.  national survival rate is 97% when breast cancer is diagnosed at a local stage (confined to the breast), 76% when diagnosed at a regional stage (spread to surrounding tissue), and only 21% when diagnosed at a distant stage (the cancer has metastasized).

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Breast Cancer:

Symptoms - Female

Recent/chronic non-cyclical breast pain

Many women with breast pain worry that it might be breast cancer.  This is very unlikely.  Breast pain is very common – about 70% of women have it at some time.  Doctors at the Edinburgh Breast Unit have looked at the medical records of more than 8,500 women who attended the Unit simply because of breast pain.  They found that less than 3% of these women – whose breast pain was probably quite severe – had breast cancer.  Breast cancer is extremely unlikely if your only symptom is pain that varies with the menstrual cycle, or if both breasts are affected.

Symptoms - Glandular

(Frequent/multiple) swollen axillary nodes

A breast self-examination should always include the armpit because breast cancer can enlarge the armpit lymph nodes even when the breast itself seems perfectly normal.

Symptoms - Skin - Conditions

Bloodstained nipple discharge

Nipple discharge can be a symptom of breast cancer, particularly if it is bloodstained.  You should definitely discuss any nipple discharge with a doctor – especially if you are a man, because the usual cause is a tumor and you will need treatment.

Single-pore nipple discharge

The cause is extremely unlikely to be breast cancer if the discharge is coming from several pores, and it does not contain any blood, and you are under 50 years of age.  If the discharge is bloodstained, or it is emerging from just one pore, your doctor will refer you to a hospital clinic for tests (such as ultrasound, mammography and looking at the discharge under the microscope) to make sure that breast cancer is not responsible.

Almost-black/whitish/yellow-green nipple discharge

Nipple discharge is usually harmless, and should not signify anything seriously wrong.  Most women can squeeze some discharge out of their nipples, especially if they have had children in the past.

Itchy/scaly nipples

Very rarely, eczema of a nipple can signal a cancerous growth beneath.  This is uncommon, but is a good reason to see your doctor if you have eczema on only one nipple.  It occurs mainly in middle-aged or elderly women.  It is not usually itchy, but there may be a pricking or burning feeling.

Counter-indicators
Discharge from both nipples

If the discharge is milky, and coming from both breasts, it may simply be an imbalance of prolactin hormone, which can easily be tested for through a blood test.

Conditions that suggest Breast Cancer:

Reproductive

Endometriosis

Endometriosis has been linked to the environmental contaminant dioxin and a lack of physical activity, both of which are also associated with an increased breast cancer risk.

Symptoms - Cancer

Risk factors for Breast Cancer:

Addictions

Alcohol-related Problems

Since the original recommendation regarding alcohol was published, researchers at the Harvard Medical School found that even 3 drinks a week put women at increased risk for breast cancer.  Women who had one or more drinks a day were found to be at 60% higher risk than women who did not drink.

Childhood

(Very) early puberty onset

Early onset of menarche (beginning of the menstrual function) is a recognized risk factor for breast cancer, while a later menarche has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.  Menarche comes later in children raised on a plant-based diet.

  • de Ridder CM, Thijssen JHH, Vant Veer P, et al.  Dietary habits, sexual maturation, and plasma hormones in pubertal girls: a longitudinal study.  Am J Clin Nutr 1991;54: pp.805-13
  • Beaton GH, Bengoa JM.  WHO monograph.  1976;62: pp.500-19
Counter-indicators
(Very) late puberty onset

Early onset of menarche (beginning of the menstrual function) is a recognized risk factor for breast cancer, while a later menarche has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.  Menarche comes later in children raised on a plant-based diet.

  • de Ridder CM, Thijssen JHH, Vant Veer P, et al.  Dietary habits, sexual maturation, and plasma hormones in pubertal girls: a longitudinal study.  Am J Clin Nutr 1991;54: pp.805-13
  • Beaton GH, Bengoa JM.  WHO monograph.  1976;62: pp.500-19

Diet

Excess Animal Fat Consumption

A study published in 2003 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicates that young women who eat more red meat and full-fat dairy products such as cheese may be raising their risk of breast cancer.  When comparing the women in the highest fat intake group with women in lowest intake group, those with the highest intake had a 33% greater risk of invasive breast cancer according to Eunyoung Cho of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Breast cancer takes years to develop, usually showing up after menopause, and factors early in a woman's life may be important.  This study is significant because it included women who had not yet reached menopause.

The study of more than 90,000 women aged 26 to 46 was taken from the Nurses' Health Study, in which volunteers answer regular questionnaires about diet and lifestyle and that data is analyzed by researchers who track the women's health.  Over the eight years of the study, 714 of the women developed invasive breast cancer.  A higher risk of breast cancer was observed among women who ate foods rich in animal fat such as red meat, cheese, ice cream and butter during their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Although it is not clear how animal fat may cause cancer, this study does indicate that there may be good reason for lowering overall animal fat intake, especially during a woman's early adult life.

Effects of a High Fat Diet

There has been much recent research on the relationship between cancer and dietary fat – possibly more than on any other component of the diet.  A connection between high fat consumption and breast and colon cancer (two of the most deadly forms of the disease) has appeared in many studies.

Family History

Habits

Problems Associated With A Sedentary Lifestyle

Risk of developing breast and colon cancers is significantly increased in those who spend a lot of time sitting, according to research presented in November of 2011 at the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Hormones

Low Melatonin Level

Based on questionnaires from 78,562 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study, reports that women who worked 30 or more years on the night shift, with at least three night shifts per month, had an almost 40% greater risk of developing breast cancer compared with those who worked the usual day shift.

A second study reports that nighttime bright light exposure is linked to increased breast cancer risk.  It is possible that exposure to more light at night – a common phenomenon in industrialized nations – may account for increased cancer risk in women, independent of night-shift work.  Another study found only a suggestion of greater risk with the brightest bedrooms, and no additional risk when turning on a light temporarily during the night.  [J Natl Cancer Ins 2001;93: pp.1557-62]

One theory is that decreased levels of the brain hormone melatonin are responsible, since this chemical is known to regulate daily sleep-wake cycles.  Previous research suggests that unusually low levels of melatonin, which can be seen if humans are exposed to light during the night, may promote tumor growth.  Normally, melatonin levels are highest during nighttime darkness and lowest during the daytime light.

The clinical experience of Dr. Pat Elliott, ND has been that a large proportion of young women with a close family history of breast cancer have low melatonin levels themselves.  One researcher noted that for breast cancer, the decline of melatonin corresponds to growth of the cancer.  This relationship is correlational, but it does suggest that there might be a causal relationship and that melatonin might fight this cancer.

A more recent study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston also reported that women with the highest levels of melatonin have a breast cancer risk that is 40% lower than those with low levels of melatonin.  [Journal of the National Cancer Institute, July 2005] This new study by Dr. Schernhammer and a team at Harvard University was different in that the researchers measured levels of melatonin in the urine of women before and after they developed breast cancer.  The researchers found that melatonin levels were sharply lower in women who developed breast cancer, even well before their diagnosis.

Progesterone Low or Estrogen Dominance

One study reported that women with the highest levels of estrogen were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those with the lowest levels.  [Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 17th April 2002]

High Female Testosterone Level

One study reported that women with the highest levels of testosterone were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those with the lowest levels.  [Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 17th April 2002]

Counter-indicators
High Sex Hormone Binding Globulin

It has been reported that women with high levels of sex hormone binding globulin – which reduces the activity of the sex hormones – were at decreased risk of breast cancer.  The same study reported that women with the highest levels of estrogen and/or testosterone were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those with the lowest levels.  [Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 17th April 2002]

Infections

Bacterial Dysbiosis

Epidemiologic and experimental data implicate putrefactive dysbiosis in the development of colon cancer and breast cancer.  A putrefaction dysbiosis is accompanied by an increase in fecal concentrations of various bacterial enzymes which metabolize bile acids to tumor promoters and deconjugate excreted estrogens, raising the plasma estrogen level.

Lifestyle

Low aerobic exercise level

Women who exercise have a lower risk of breast cancer, which could relate to better lymphatic circulation due to more breast movement.

Counter-indicators
(Very) good aerobic exercise level

Women who exercise have a lower risk of breast cancer, which could relate to better lymphatic circulation due to more breast movement.

Medical Procedures

Counter-indicators
Having had a bilateral mastectomy

Although a mastectomy does drastically reduce the occurrence of breast cancer, even the most experienced breast surgeon cannot remove all breast tissue and therefore a small risk of developing breast cancer remains.

Metabolic

Problems Caused By Being Overweight

Women with 'apple-shaped' bodies may be more likely to develop breast cancer than their 'pear-shaped' counterparts.  Harvard researchers studied breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women who had never used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and found even greater risks, with larger-waisted women appearing to be 88% more likely to develop breast cancer than smaller-waisted women.  HRT use can increase the risk of breast cancer, regardless of waist size.  Exactly why fat distribution affects breast cancer risk is not fully understood but perhaps, the researchers speculate, upper or central body fat is deeper and may be closer to the important organs and glands that regulate hormone balance than fat in the other areas of the body.  These hormonal changes may be responsible for the increased risk of the cancer.
[American Journal of Epidemiology December 1999;150: pp.1316-1324]

Supplements and Medications

(Discontinued) non-human estrogen use

Recent findings from a landmark study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1995 and involving 121,700 women, revealed startling effects from non-human estrogen use.  It warned that women who used this type of estrogens to offset the symptoms of menopause also increased their chance of developing breast cancer by 30-40% by taking the hormone for more than five years.  In women aged between 60 and 64, the risk of breast cancer rose to 70% after five years of use.  Finally, the study concluded that women were 45% more likely to die from breast cancer than those who chose not to use them or used them for less than five years.

Current birth control pill use

Statistics now show that the wide use of the Pill has given rise to health hazards such as breast cancer, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease on a scale previously unknown in medicine.

Counter-indicators
Frequent/regular aspirin use

Aspirin may slightly reduce risk of estrogen receptor positive forms of breast cancer.

Symptoms - Cancer

Symptoms - Female

Extended bra wearing

A book published in 1995, "Dressed to Kill" by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer appeared to show that, based on interviews with 4,730 women, the more hours each day that a woman wears a bra, the higher her risk of developing breast cancer.  "The overall increase found between 24-hour wearing and not wearing at all was 125-fold." The mechanism behind this increased risk was said to be the restricted flow of lymph fluid, which removes toxins from breast tissue, due to less breast movement and constriction caused by tight-fitting bras.

Previously, a 1991 Harvard study [Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2): pp131-135] found that premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users.

A 2009 Chinese study [Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao 29(7): pp1451-3] found that not sleeping in a bra lowered breast cancer risk by 60%.

A 2014 study of some 1,900 women, funded by the US National Cancer Institute and published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, however, appeared to show no increased risk at all from wearing bras among postmenopausal women, no matter how long they are worn.

It would appear that more research using a larger sample size is needed.  Meanwhile, minimizing bra use – especially when sleeping – would seem to be the safest approach to reducing risk.

Symptoms - Food - Beverages

Moderate/high alcohol consumption

More than nine drinks per week significantly increases the risk of breast cancer.

Symptoms - Food - General

Long-term/short-term low-carb dieting or discontinued low-carb diet

Women with the highest intake of animal fat seem to have over a 75% greater risk of developing breast cancer.  [Journal of the National Cancer Institute 95 (2003): p.1079]

Symptoms - Reproductive - General

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Breast Cancer suggests the following may be present:

Tumors, Malignant

Recommendations for Breast Cancer:

Animal-based

CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)

For breast cancer prevention and treatment, it is suggested that 6 to 10 750mg capsules of CLA be taken daily.  When taking CLA, the breast cancer patient also must take soy.

Botanical

Not recommended
Maca

Women with a history or increased risk of breast cancer should avoid this herb because of possible negative hormonal influences.

Drug

Conventional Drug Avoidance

Chemotherapy given to women with early-stage breast cancer causes their bone density to decline at a faster rate than previously known, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.  Scientists at Ohio State University said they were surprised to find that 35 pre-menopausal women treated with chemotherapy experienced up to an 8 percent loss in bone density after 12 months of treatment.  The usual loss after menopause is 1 to 2 percent per year.  The median age of the women was 42.  [Journal of Clinical Oncology, July 2001]

Hydrazine Sulfate

See the link between Cancer (General) and Hydrazine Sulfate.

Extract

DIM / I3C

Phytochemicals such as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and sulforaphane are components of cruciferous vegetables which exhibit antitumorigenic activity associated with altered carcinogen metabolism and detoxification.  Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a major metabolite of I3C formed in the gut and represents a new class of antiestrogens that inhibit breast cancer growth.  It also encourages cells that are abnormally multiplying to stop reproducing and die.

Researchers have found that DIM and genistein (a major isoflavone in soy) reduce production of two proteins whose chemotactic attraction to each other is necessary for the spread of breast and ovarian cancers.

When applying purified versions of DIM and genistein to motile cancer cells, the researchers could literally watch these cells come to a near halt.  When either compound was applied, migration and invasion were substantially reduced.

Both DIM and genistein are already being developed for use as a preventive and a chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, although more extensive toxicological studies are necessary as at the time of writing (2007).

Hormone

Melatonin

Melatonin has been shown to inhibit several types of cancers, especially hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer.  This may be due to its ability to reduce the number of cellular estrogen receptors, which reduces the production of cell-multiplication factors.  The immune-modulating properties of melatonin appear to convey additional anti-cancer properties.  It has been shown to support the use of interleukin-2 in anti-cancer therapy, especially under conditions of controlled lighting.  Many animal studies have demonstrated an increase in tumor growth rates in animals whose pineal glands have been removed.

Positive results have been shown with melatonin on its own and in combination with interferon, tumor necrosis factor, and tamoxifen.  These preliminary results are quite encouraging as approximately 30% of the patients taking anywhere from 10-50mg daily (at 8pm) experienced improvements in survival time and quality-of-life assessments.  [Brit J Cancer 7l(4): pp.854-56, 1995]

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Test for Hormones

Testing for estrogen, progesterone and testosterone may help to properly evaluate breast and ovarian cancer risk.  Some estrogens, as well as testosterone, may aggravate the risk whereas progesterone has a protective effect.

There are additional estrogenic tests that can be done to evaluate breast cancer risk.  There is considerable and increasing research concerning the 2/16-alpha hydroxyestrone ratio.  A very recent human study states: "2-hydroxyestrone levels and 2/16-alpha hydroxyestrone ratios were significantly lower, while 16-alpha hydroxyestrone levels were higher in breast cancer patients." The 2/16-alpha hydroxyestrone ratio appears to be a very significant predictive factor of breast cancer.  Many laboratories are offering these tests now.

Test for DHEA

Of 5,000 women followed in one study, 27 developed cancer.  Most of the 27 had abnormally low levels of DHEA.

Vitamins

Vitamin A

Vitamin A and vitamin D3 inhibit breast cancer cell division and can induce cancer cells to differentiate into mature, noncancerous cells.  Vitamin D3 works synergistically with tamoxifen (and melatonin) to inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation.  Breast cancer patients should take 4000 to 6000 IU of vitamin D3 every day on an empty stomach.  Water-soluble vitamin A can be taken in doses of 100,000 to 300,000 IU every day.  Monthly blood tests are needed to make sure toxicity does not occur in response to these relatively high daily doses of vitamin A and vitamin D3.  After 4 to 6 months, the doses of vitamin D3 and vitamin A can be reduced.  If pregnancy is a possibility, these doses of vitamin A should not be used.

Vitamin D

According to researchers, women who have mutations in their vitamin D receptor gene are nearly twice as likely to develop breast cancer as are women who do not have the mutation.  These findings support previous studies showing vitamin D may offer protection against the disease.  Researchers have found that Caucasian women with certain versions of this gene not only have an increased risk of breast cancer, but also may suffer from a more aggressive form of the disease if it spreads.

If true, this suggests that vitamin D does indeed play a part in protecting the body against breast cancer.  It also shows that different versions of the vitamin D receptor gene will influence the way in which vitamin D protects the female body against this disease.  [Colston, K., et al.  Vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms and breast cancer risk.  Clinical Cancer Research August 14, 2004; 10(16)]

Vitamin E

Vitamin E succinate is a derivative of fat-soluble vitamin E and has been shown to inhibit tumor cell growth.  In one study, vitamin E succinate inhibited growth and induced apoptic cell death in estrogen-receptor-negative human breast cancer cell lines.  The study concluded that vitamin E succinate may be of clinical use in the treatment of aggressive human breast cancers, particularly those that are resistant to anti-estrogen therapy.  Those with estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancers should consider taking 1200 IU of vitamin E succinate each day.

Preventive measures against Breast Cancer:

Diet

Low/Decreased Fat Diet

There has been much recent research on the relationship between cancer and dietary fat – possibly more than on any other component of the diet.  A connection between high fat consumption and breast and colon cancer (two of the most deadly forms of the disease) has appeared in many studies.  Experts recommend that you consume no more than 20-25% of calories from fat.  That's about half of the fat that most Americans eat.  You should also choose modest amounts of appropriate vegetable oils.

Alcohol Avoidance

Since the original recommendation regarding alcohol was published, researchers at the Harvard Medical School found that even 3 drinks a week put women at increased risk for breast cancer.  Women who had one or more drinks a day were found to be at 60% higher risk than women who did not drink.

Increased Fruit/Vegetable Consumption

A meta-analysis of 12 separate studies comparing breast cancer risk to diet found that high consumption of fruit was associated with a 6% reduction of breast cancer compared to low consumption.

Plant-Based Nutrition

In the Nurses' Health Study, beta carotene proved protective against breast cancer for more than 87,000 women.  Beta carotene both in supplement form and in foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables should be included in your diet if you are interested in breast cancer prevention.

Regarding children, plant-based diets may encourage a later menarche (beginning of the menstrual function), which has been shown to be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer in epidemiologic studies.[1, 2]

  1. de Ridder CM, Thijssen JHH, Vant Veer P, et al.  Dietary habits, sexual maturation, and plasma hormones in pubertal girls: a longitudinal study.  Am J Clin Nutr 1991;54:805-13
  2. Beaton GH, Bengoa JM.  WHO monograph.  1976;62:500-19
Dairy Products Avoidance

A new study suggests the growth hormones used to increase cows' milk production can increase the risk of breast cancer for milk-drinkers.  Samuel Epstein, a U.S.  researcher, presented a report on growth hormones and milk to the World Conference on Breast Cancer in Ottawa.  He explained insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) stimulates breast-cell growth, and uncontrolled cell growth can lead to cancer.  Epstein says blood tests from breast-cancer patients show high levels of IGF-1.

Environmental

Change In Clothing Habits

Highly regarded studies, including one at Harvard, have shown that women who wear bras for extended periods are at much higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who do not.  There is strong evidence that this is as a result of impaired lymphatic flow.  Wearing a bra, especially a constricting one with underwires and/or tight straps, and especially to bed, prevents normal lymphatic flow and would likely lead to anoxia (lower than normal oxygen content), which has been related to fibrosis, which has been linked to increased cancer risk.

The logical conclusion is that bras should be used as little as possible, if at all.  Women evolved under conditions where there was breast movement with every step that they took when they walked or ran.  Scientific literature about lymphatic flow indicates that this may be as important as the constriction factor.  Every subtle bounce of the breast while moving, walking, running, etc.  gently massages the breast and increases lymphatic flow and thus cleans the breast of toxins and wastes that arise from cellular metabolism.

Of course, there may be other mechanisms for the damage that bras apparently cause.  One such mechanism could be temperature.  Breasts are external organs and have a naturally lower temperature, but this rises when a bra is worn.  Cancers can be temperature-dependent; breast cancer is hormone-dependent; temperature can alter hormone function.

All these facts are well-established in medical literature.  By whatever mechanism, someone will eventually explain why Singer and Grismaijer found a 125-fold difference in cancer rates between bra-free breasts and those constricted by 24-hour-per-day bra-wearing.  They have written a book that is well worth reading, Dressed to Kill, Avery Press, 1995.

Singer and Grismajer suggest that you simply stop wearing one for two weeks and see how you feel.  "Don't sleep in your bra!", pleads Singer.  "Women who want to avoid breast cancer should wear a bra for the shortest period of time possible – certainly for less than 12 hours daily."

Push-up and sports bras are much worse than loose-fitting cotton bras.  You should be able to slip two fingers under the shoulder-straps and side-panels.  The higher the side-panels, the more severe the restriction of major lymph nodes.  Take your bra off at home.  Massage your breasts every time you remove your bra.

Chemical Avoidance

A 1999 study showed the risk of breast cancer was approximately doubled through use of termite or louse control products, a professional lawn service, or playing golf (possible herbicide exposure).

Many sunscreens contain chemicals which are estrogenic and regular use may contribute to breast cancer risk and growth.

Habits

Aerobic Exercise

Exercising at least four hours per week for 12 years can reduce a woman's risk of breast cancer in half, according to a study of breast cancer patients performed at the University of Southern California.  The study revealed that exercise is especially important during the adolescent and child-bearing years.  In addition, the 12 years of exercise do not need to be performed consecutively.  This study complements one performed at the Alberta Cancer Board in Alberta, Canada, which showed that exercising throughout life can cut a woman's risk of breast cancer by 20%.

Mineral

Nutrient

Essential Fatty Acids

Lignans are particularly abundant in raw ground flax seed and are also found in whole grains and legumes.  Diets that are rich in these foods seem to be a factor in preventing the development of breast cancer in women.

Beta-Carotene

A study published in 1992 by the State University of New York compared 310 women having breast cancer to 316 women without the disease.  The study found that the cancer-free group ate many more beta carotene-containing fruits and vegetables than he women with breast cancer.  In addition, the National Cancer Institute studied 83 women with breast cancer and found that they had lower blood levels of beta carotene.

Lycopene

While preliminary evidence links dietary lycopene with protection from breast cancer [Cancer Causes Control 1998;9: pp.89-97], another study did not find this link.  [Cancer Lett 1997;114: pp.251-3]

Vitamins

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

In a 1991 review of 46 studies of the protective effect of vitamin C against cancer, 33 of those studies showed that vitamin C helped safeguard against the development of many cancers.  This included non-hormone-dependent breast cancer.  Vitamin C did not appear to confer any protection against hormone-dependent (including estrogen-dependent) breast cancers.

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KEY

Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Strong or generally accepted link: is often a sign or symptom of; often increases risk of; often suggests
Strong or generally accepted link:
is often a sign or symptom of; often increases risk of; often suggests
Definite or direct link: strongly suggests
Definite or direct link:
strongly suggests
Weakly counter-indicative: may contraindicate; may decrease risk of
Weakly counter-indicative:
may contraindicate; may decrease risk of
Strong counter-indication: often decreases risk of
Strong counter-indication:
often decreases risk of
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates: decreases risk of
Definitely or absolutely counter-indicates:
decreases risk of
May be useful: may help with; may help prevent
May be useful:
may help with; may help prevent
Moderately useful: often helps with; often prevents
Moderately useful:
often helps with; often prevents
Very useful: is highly recommended for; usually prevents
Very useful:
is highly recommended for; usually prevents
Often counterindicated: is often not recommended for
Often counterindicated:
is often not recommended for