(NaturalNews) October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the media focus of this month tends to be about curing breast cancer, with little said about how to prevent breast cancer. The bad news is that we`re no closer to a cure for breast cancer than we were 50 years ago. We have somewhat more effective chemotherapies for treating breast cancer, but they all can have terrible, even deadly, side effects and hardly qualify as a cure.
The good news is that we know a lot more about how to prevent breast cancer than we did 50 years ago.
1) Avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In 2003, the Women`s Health Initiative Study (WHI) showed a 24% increased risk of breast cancer for women using synthetic HRT such as Provera. This was followed closely by the British Million Women Study, which showed a 66% increased risk of breast cancer among women using synthetic HRT. Next came the French E3N Study, which showed a 60% increased risk. As a result of these studies, millions of women quickly stopped using synthetic hormones. In November 2006, research was released by cancer centers around the U.S. showing that breast cancer rates had dropped dramatically (7 to 15%) for the first time in decades, and in 2009 an article in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that the drop was due to the millions of women who stopped using HRT.
2) Get some exercise. There`s no need to run marathons or climb mountains; even a 20-minute walk three times a week can make a difference. A 30-minute walk 6 times a week makes a much bigger difference. According to the Nurses` Health Study, walking two miles a day cuts your risk of breast cancer in half. There are literally dozens of studies showing that regular physical exercise dramatically reduces the risk of breast cancer.
3) Minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates. White foods are out; whole grains, fresh veggies and fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs and fish are in. Too much sugar and simple carbs in the diet keeps insulin levels high, which sets up a cascade of events in the body that predisposes a woman`s body to breast cancer.
4) Use alcohol in moderation. Moderate use of alcohol, such as a glass of wine a few times a week, reduces the risk of breast cancer. Anything more increases the risk of breast cancer.
5) Avoid environmental toxins. This is easier said than done these days, but take note of some of the toxins to be minimized or avoided: pesticides and herbicides, many cleaning products, nail polish and nail polish remover, oil-based paints and paint thinners, eating or drinking from soft plastic containers, cosmetics that contain parabens, fake fragrances such as air fresheners, scented laundry soaps and most perfumes, and pressed wood and particle board furniture that off-gasses formaldehyde. Tap water from a municipal water supply or well water in a farming community can be loaded with toxins; use a water filter if necessary.
6) Manage stress. Chronic, unremitting stress, such as is often experienced by women who juggle the roles of wife, mother and employee, takes a heavy toll on the body, and in particular keeps the hormone cortisol high. When cortisol is chronically elevated, the risk of breast cancer is significantly increased. Find an activity (or inactivity) that is relaxing, and take time for it daily.
7) Get plenty of sleep in a dark room. This is one of the best ways to manage stress! Sleep gives the body time to rest, repair and heal. Sleeping in a dark room encourages the production of the hormone melatonin, which reduces the risk of breast cancer. Plenty of sleep might be 7 hours for some women and 9 hours for others.
8) Avoid chemical contraceptives if at all possible. Birth control pills, patches, shots and implants impart a modestly higher risk of breast cancer, which increases the longer they are used. Teens who use chemical contraceptives have triple the lifetime risk of breast cancer. Chemical contraceptives contain the same synthetic hormones as synthetic HRT (see #1), often in higher doses. The barrier methods of contraception such as the diaphragm, cervical cap and sponge, use gels and creams that aren`t entirely safe, but appear to be safer than chemical contraceptives when it comes to breast cancer risk.
9) Keep the vitamin D tank full. By now the research is indisputable that women with vitamin D deficiency have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer. Get some sun, take a vitamin D supplement, and if in doubt, test your vitamin D levels. And by the way, vitamin D is also very protective against the flu!
Beral V et al, "Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the Million Women Study," Lancet 2003 Aug 9;362(9382):419-27.
Chlebowski RT, Kuller LH, Prentice RL, "Breast Cancer after Use of Estrogen plus Progestin in Postmenopausal Women," NEJM Vol 360:573-587 February 5, 2009.
Fournier et al, "Use of different postmenopausal hormone therapies and risk of histology- and hormone receptor-defined invasive breast cancer," J Clin Oncol 2008 Mar 10;26(8):1260-8.
Fournier et al, "Unequal risks for breast cancer associated with different hormone replacement therapies: results from the E3N cohort study," Breast Cancer Res Treat 2008 Jan;107(1):103-11.
Fournier et al, "Breast cancer risk in relation to different types of hormone replacement therapy in the E3N-EPIC cohort," Int J Cancer 2005 Apr 10;114(3):448-54.
L`Hermite et al, "Could transdermal estradiol+progesterone be a safer postmenopausal HRT? A review," Maturitas 2008 Vol 60, Issue 3, Pages 185-201.
Lee et al, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Breast Cancer," Warner Books, 2003.
Virginia Hopkins is a best-selling author and co-author of books about women's hormones, nutrition, prescription drugs and more, including What Your Dr. May Not Tell You About Menopause with Dr. John Lee, and Prescription Alternatives.