Ten Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention

October 5, 2012

Cancer Prevention Nutrients – Sara Vance on Fox 5 from Sara Vance on Vimeo.

Ten Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention:

According to the National Cancer Institute, experts estimate that about one out of every eight women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time during her life.  According to the Mayo Clinic, only 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family. No one knows exactly what causes breast cancer, but most likely a combination of environmental, dietary and/or lifestyle factors/stressors is largely to blame.  While some risk factors are out of our control (such as gender, age, genetics); the good news is that scientific research supports that there are a number of dietary and lifestyle measures that women can take today to help prevent breast cancer.

1. Optimize your vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because the sun is our best source.  So after decades of loading up on the sunscreen, it is no surprise that a majority of the population is now deficient. One of the simplest and most important thing everyone can do to prevent breast cancer is to make sure their vitamin D levels are optimized.  Vitamin D blocks the growth of breast cancer tumor cells.  Research has shown that the rate of breast cancer decreases by 30% when vitamin D serum levels are greater than 40 ng/mL compared to levels below 20 ng/mL.  According to UCSD Professor and researcher Cedric Garland, maintaining a Vitamin D level between 40-60 ng/ml could prevent 75% of new cases of breast cancer.

According to the Vitamin D Council, someone with light toned skin produces enough vitamin D after only about 15-20 minutes in the sun a few times a week (darker skinned individuals might need a little longer exposure).  You can also get your vitamin D from a supplement as well.  But having vitamin D levels checked is important, because for very low numbers, people might need a doctor to prescribe a higher dose to boost Vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D is also important for our bone health, and offers an immune system boost as well – studies show vitamin D to be more effective in preventing the flu than a flu shot!  Read: Vitamin D, Why You are Probably Not Getting Enough

2. Boost your magnesium intake

Over 300 biochemical processes in the body require magnesium – including ATP and fatty acid metabolism, muscle and nerve functions, heart rhythms, bone density, and brain functioning.  Magnesium helps rid the body of toxins and acid residues, and is also needed for the synthesis of vitamin D and absorption of calcium. So even if you are getting enough vitamin D, without sufficient magnesium levels, you might not be able to raise your blood levels of vitamin D. Magnesium and Vitamin D work together to help calcium get where it is supposed to go – the bones. Getting too much calcium, or taking calcium without co-factors like magnesium can lead to calcifications in areas like the arteries of the heart and breast tissue.

Magnesium is just beginning to emerge as an important mineral for cancer prevention.  A study from Sweden reported that women with the highest magnesium intake had a 40% lower risk of developing cancer than those with the lowest intake of the mineral.  Heavy alcohol consumption also depletes magnesium, which could be one reason that drinking more than two alcoholic beverage a day raises our risk of breast cancer.  Read: A Magnesium Deficiency Increases Cancer Risk Significantly, and Magnesium and Cancer Research.

3. Take omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids offer protection against heart disease, diabetes, and many different cancers, including of the breast. Omega 3s can be found in fatty fish, fish oils, some seeds, nuts, and also algae. Research studies show that human breast cancer cells self-destruct when they are exposed to the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Omega 3 fats also help prevent breast cancer in another way – by inhibiting the COX 2 enzyme – which increases inflammation and promotes breast cancer.  And finally, Omega-3 fats increase the expression of two tumor suppressor genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. When functioning normally,  these two genes help to repair damage to DNA, which offers protective effects against cancer development.  Omega 3s offer so many other health benefits from boosting our mood, brain function, and promoting a healthy heart.

4. Try Turmeric

Turmeric is an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory & anti-oxidant herb with a rich history in Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric is found in many curries, soups, and you can also make golden milk tea. Shown to detoxify the liver, assist in the removal of mucus, lower cholesterol, help to manage weight, treat IBS, loosen stiff, sore, arthritic, or inflamed joints. Studies also suggest that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, blocks a molecule called RANKL, which is found in aggressive breast cancer cells that makes the cancer more likely to metasticize or spread.  In addition to cancer-prevention, turmuric could be useful in preventing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is also a digestive tonic, antiseptic, antiparasitic, astringent, pain reliever, blood purifier, wound healer, kidney-stone dissolver, eczema treatment, and more.
Read: Can Turmeric Slow Down the Spread of Breast Cancer?

5. Eat a rainbow

Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and various cancer-fighting phytonutrients (such as carotenoids, lycopene, indoles, isoflavones, and flavonols). In a study of about 3000 postmenopausal women, those who consumed 25 or more servings of vegetables weekly had a 37% lower risk of breast cancer compared with women who consumed fewer than 9 vegetable servings weekly.  Vegetable intake has also been inversely associated with serum insulin-like growth factor-I, which is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Certain vegetables like cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and a variety of greens have compounds that are very powerful against breast cancer cells.  A study of over 1,500 breast cancer survivors in China, found that those who regularly ate cruciferous vegetables for 36 months after their breast cancer diagnosis had better survival rates.  Extensive research has also been conducted at Johns Hopkins Medicine regarding the nutritional value of broccoli sprouts.  A study published in the International Journal of Cancer discovered that those who ate 10 grams of button mushrooms a day were 64% less likely to develop breast cancer.  Vegetables deliver powerful antioxidants and other compounds that have been shown to offer protective effects against many cancers including breast and colon.

6. Pop a few Brazil nuts

Selenium is a trace mineral, meaning only a very small amount is required by the body – however, this important trace mineral packs a big punch. Selenium is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes which help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. A recent study found that over 80% of women who had mastectomies were low in selenium.  Another study of women with the BRCA1 mutation – found that when they were given selenium for 3 months, the number of chromosome breaks were brought back to normal, which lowers the risk of breast cancer developing. Selenium also has been found to have protective effects against other cancers – especially skin cancer (read: Eat Your Sunscreen).  Just a handful of Brazil nuts a day will get your selenium to a healthy place.   But be careful – stick with a small handful. You can actually get too much selenium.

7. Trade your cup o’ Joe for green tea.

EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), the primary polyphenol in green tea, may reduce the risk of breast cancer. In laboratory and animal studies, EGCG has been shown to limit the growth of breast cancer cells and other types of cancer cells. One study of Asian-American women found that those who drank more green tea were less likely to develop breast cancer.  The other benefit green tea has over coffee, is that it is less acidic.  Laboratory studies have shown that cancer cells thrive in an acidic (low pH) environment, but cannot survive in alkaline (high pH) environment.  Also, when the body is overly acidic, calcium is pulled from the bones to buffer the acidity, creating mineral depletion and possibly creating calcifications outside the bone structure.

8. Ditch the dairy

According to a study published in Dermatoendocrinol, “a potent link to dairy seems to exist for three hormone-responsive glands. Acne, breast cancer and prostate cancer have all been linked epidemiologically to dairy intake.” Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 as a general stimulant, is the likely link, synergized by the steroid hormones present in milk. (Read more). Dairy is mucus-producing in the body, and only 40% of the population has the ability to properly digest the lactose in milk.  So for the majority of the population, milk could lead to poor digestion and gut inflammation.

9. Limit alcohol

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., found that women who had one or two drinks a day increased their risk of developing breast cancer by 10 percent. Women who had more than three drinks a day raised their risk by 30 percent.   According to data published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2002, 4 percent of all breast cancers – about 44,000 cases a year – in the United Kingdom are due to alcohol consumption.  It is not totally clear why there is a link between breast cancer and alcohol intake, but it possibly could have to do with the fact that the more alcohol someone drinks, the lower their magnesium levels sink.  Read more.

10. Skip the sweets

Sugary foods increase serum insulin and serum Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-I) levels, which stimulate cancer cell growth.  High amounts, of IGF was found to increase mammary tumors in laboratory mice.  Another study looked at more than 1,800 women in Mexico, and researchers found that those who got 57% or more of their total energy intake from refined carbohydrates had a 220% higher risk of breast cancer than women who ate more balanced diets.  Another study published in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, found that the incidence of breast cancer was 60% higher among diabetic women than among women with fasting glucose levels under 100 mg/dl.  Another study found that women with early stage breast cancer with the highest insulin levels were twice as likely to have their tumor metastasize, and three times as likely to die of breast cancer as women with the lowest insulin levels.  Struggling with powerful sugar cravings?  Consider joining my next Break up with Sugar eCourse.

Read: Cancer Loves Sugar: Myths and Facts

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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