Better Breast Health - Make Prevention a Daily Habit
For some women, the thought of breast cancer elicits fears related to body image, surgery and mortality. It has likely affected every woman in this country, either through the trauma of personal experience or through another’s trials.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), some 207,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women this year. Despite this staggering number, there is good news. The ACS also reports that after increasing for more than two decades, the incidence rate of female breast cancer recently has been decreasing, by about 2 percent per year from 1999 to 2006, which may indicate that we are adopting more effective prevention methods. Here are some natural ways to keep breast tissue healthy.
Get a Move On
Walk, run, swim or bike—just move. Studies show that exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. Results of research published in BMC Cancer found that women in the study group who engaged in more than seven hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise for the last 10 years were 16 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who were inactive.
Embrace Fish Oil
According to a recent report in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, women who regularly included a fish oil supplement in their diet had a 32 percent reduced risk of breast cancer than those not taking the supplement.
Take Up Tea
Green tea, the most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water, reportedly contains the highest concentration of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help fight off the free radicals that scientists believe contribute to the aging process, as well as the development of many health problems, including cancer. According to a new study led by Martha Shrubsole, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, regular consumption of green tea may reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer by as much as 12 percent.
The Power of Produce
Eat more fruits and vegetables. The American Institute of Cancer Research lists the foods most likely to help decrease the risk of breast cancer. Superstar vegetables include all cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower); dark leafy greens (collards, kale, spinach); carrots; and tomatoes. Steam the vegetables or eat them raw to best preserve their cancer-fighting nutrients. Superstar fruits include citrus, berries and cherries.
The Magic of Mushrooms
Regularly include medicinal mushrooms at mealtime, especially the Japanese varieties maitake and shiitake. Studies have shown that maitake mushrooms, in particular, stimulate immune function and also inhibit tumor growth. In a study of more than 2,000 Chinese women, those who ate the most fresh mushrooms (10 grams or more a day) proved about two-thirds less likely to develop breast cancer than non-consumers.
Limit the Alcohol
A study of more than a million women by Oxford University scientists indicates a clear link between drinking even moderate amounts of wine and breast cancer. A Harvard Nurses’ Health study has shown that consuming more than one alcoholic beverage a day can increase breast cancer risk by as much as 20 to 25 percent.
Cut the Fat
Ann Kulze, a medical doctor and author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet, says women should minimize consumption of omega-6 and saturated fats, avoid trans fats, and maximize intake of omega-3 fats, especially from oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel. Kulze suggests that women consume monounsaturated fats like olive oil, as well as nuts and seeds; the latter also provide selenium, an important mineral in cancer protection, according to the British Journal of Cancer.
Cut Chemical Exposure
Certain chemicals, many of which are found in plastic, appear to interfere with the body’s hormonal balance and could harm breast tissue. To reduce exposure to chemicals such as Biphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, Marissa Weiss, a physician and president of BreastCancer.org, recommends using products that are made from glass, ceramic or stainless steel, instead.
Avoid Long-Term Hormone Therapy
The link between postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT) and breast cancer has long been a subject of debate, and research results have been mixed. According to experts at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, it’s probably safe to take hormones for up to four to five years, although they recommend using the lowest dose possible. Of course, not using PHT to start with is a way to avoid raising this particular risk.
Making such conscious daily life choices pays off today and in many tomorrows.
Beth Davis is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings magazines.