Every year in October, we’re reminded about a danger that currently affects more than three million women across the United States, and many more across the globe: breast cancer. No one is ever prepared to hear that she or he has breast cancer — or any cancer, for that matter.
However, preventing cancer is a much better approach than waiting until you get the diagnosis to become pro-active. The following offers several ways to prevent breast cancer, starting with diet.
Important dietary habits for reducing the risks and progression of breast cancer include following an anti-inflammatory diet emphasizing low glycemic index (low sugar) foods, avoiding high-fat commercial dairy and fried foods, and limiting refined, processed foods.
Of all the foods shown to fight cancer, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, radish, and turnips may be the top players. That’s because these superfood vegetables contain an abundance of cancer-fighting, sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates work together synergistically with other phytonutrients to inhibit cancer growth, block metastasis, detoxify cancer-causing compounds from the body, help balance hormones, reduce inflammation and boost immunity on the genetic level.
Several other ways to reduce your breast cancer risk include:
- Vitamin D. Getting enough vitamin D may be the most important way to reduce this risk. It has been shown to block the growth of breast cancer tumors. Vitamin D’s active form, calcitriol, provides numerous benefits against cancer: It encourages diseased cells to die, and it can limit blood supply to tumors and restrict cancer spread. Most of the vitamin D our body needs is made by the skin in response to sunlight. Only a small amount comes from diet. When choosing a supplement, get vitamin D3.
- Stop eating this cancer-causing food. If you want to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer — give up sugar. Many studies appear to conclusively identify sugar consumption, specifically table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, as a major risk factor for breast cancer and its metastasis.
- Get enough sleep by increasing your natural cancer-killing hormone, Melatonin. One of your hormones’ most important jobs is telling your cells when and how they should multiply. Your breast cancer risk is largely tied to your hormones. But just as easily as hormones can increase your cancer risk, they can also slash it significantly. There is one naturally occurring hormone that has the proven ability to help your body fight cancer — especially breast cancer: melatonin. Melatonin has been shown to put a stop to both tumor and cancerous cell growth.
- Lose weight. Many studies have shown that high levels of the hormone leptin in your body may make you more susceptible to breast cancer. Leptin actually talks to inflammatory molecules that induce breast cancer. When this “crosstalk” is cut off, it reduces breast cancer. When one has excess fat, leptin enhances breast cancer cell growth by turning off genes that kill cancer cells and turning on genes that make cells more receptive to estrogens, which increases breast cancer development. Of course, shedding excess fat will reduce leptin levels. But before you do that, a very easy way to restore leptin sensitivity is to eat much more nutrient-dense foods and avoid processed foods.
- Get plenty of exercise. Walking for at least thirty minutes a day has been shown to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Exercise reduces insulin resistance (a condition where your body has trouble absorbing glucose, which can cause blood sugar to build up in your blood), inflammation, and body fat—and that’s important because each have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Make sure you get plenty of phytonutrients, especially DIM. Also known by the mouthful “3, 3’-diindolylmethane,” DIM is created when cruciferous vegetables are metabolized in the body. DIM is the power of broccoli multiplied. Once inside the body, DIM mitigates the actions of a number of key proteins associated with inflammation, immunity, cellular health, and hormone metabolism. DIM also interacts with proteins that influence angiogenesis, the process that creates blood vessels to feed tumors. The compound also impacts proteins that affect apoptosis, the process behind programmed cell death and the cell life cycle. These are important mechanisms in cancer growth: Angiogenesis brings more nutrients to hungry tumors, while dysfunction in the apoptosis cycle prevents cancer cells from dying, allowing them to multiply instead. Perhaps most interesting is DIM’s effect on estrogen metabolism. When estrogens get broken down, they can turn into either beneficial estrogen metabolites, acting as antioxidants, or problematic estrogen metabolites associated with cancer and other chronic health conditions. In all cases, we would like more of the former and less of the latter. This relationship with estrogen also makes DIM a potent detoxifier. Many of these destructive estrogen metabolites enter the body as estrogen-mimicking compounds found in industrial chemicals and man-made pollutants. These “everywhere chemicals,” also known as endocrine disruptors, are commonly found in plastics, body care products, and numerous other everyday sources. The estrogen-like nature of these compounds allows them to attach to estrogen and other hormone receptor sites in the body and prevent natural estrogens from being properly metabolized and used. Chronic exposure to these chemicals can wreak havoc throughout the body, disrupting cell signaling and interfering with critical hormonal and biological processes. DIM helps to detoxify the body of these harmful estrogen-like compounds and supports healthy hormone balance in both men and women. The research community has been studying DIM’s ability to modulate estrogen metabolism and how that might impact hormone-related cancers in the breast and prostate. Men with diets rich in cruciferous vegetables also have a lower incidence of prostate cancer.
- Take Resveratrol. Resveratrol minimizes circulating estrogen in the bloodstream. If the body’s ability to process circulating estrogen (and xenoestrogens) goes out of balance, this can be one of the causative factors for breast cancer. High levels of estrogen metabolites do not get excreted and are allowed to circulate, and these compounds can react with DNA in breast cells.
- Increase Olive Oil consumption. Potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds in extra virgin olive oil have been shown to exert unique benefits for breast cancer. In fact, by consuming just one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil per day, you could dramatically reduce your breast cancer risk and kill cancer cells before they take hold.