Saving Second Base
October ushers in Breast Cancer Awareness National Month, with it comes the opportunity to celebrate survivors and honor the memory of those lost.
Breast cancer most often strikes women in the prime of their lives. The breast cancer rate among women in the U.S. is approximately 12%. And, the rate of premenopausal breast cancer (before age 50) breast cancer has increased by 30% in the last thirty years. One out of eight American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. 30 to 40 of every 100,000 women in the United States dies of breast cancer. In Asia, the rate of breast cancer is less than half in the U.S; only 2 to 5 out of 100,000 die of breast cancer each year. This indicates that breast cancer is influenced by environment, diet and lifestyle more than genetics. Studies show that approximately 80% of breast cancers are caused by environmental factors rather than genetic predisposition.
Mammograms and self-exams help with early detention but not prevention. The best defense against breast cancer is for women to take control of their health by understanding what they can do to decrease their risk of breast cancer. Several studies and protocols developed at leading medical institutions are proving that there are better ways to determine if a woman is at an increased risk for breast cancer. Dietary changes, nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes can decrease your risk of breast cancer. Even if a woman has breast cancer, these changes may decrease the chance of recurrence.
Are You at Risk?
Do you know if you have an increased risk of breast cancer? There are several well-documented risk factors and scientific tests that can be performed to determine a woman's risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer develops when genetic information (DNA) in cells is damaged. Tests determine the amount of damage cells are exposed to, help determine risk. Estrogen increases the rate at which cells grow. When damaged cells are exposed to excessive estrogen they are stimulated to grow, which can result in cancer. When we determine our estrogen exposure, we have the information needed to determine our risk of breast cancer.
70%-80% of women who develop breast cancer have none of the risk factors. So, with or without the presence of risk factors, you should be tested. Living in the United States puts us at an increased risk. Saliva testing is able to measure how much your cells and tissues are exposed to estrogen. After determining your level of risk, develop a strategy to decrease risks with your doctor. By making necessary changes in lifestyle, diet and taking appropriate vitamin supplements, we know we are doing everything we can to avoid breast cancer.
Protect Your DNA
Found in every cell of the body, DNA, contains all the information needed to perform all of its cellular functions. If this information gets damaged and the cell is directed to function abnormally, disease develops. Free radicals damage DNA. Free radicals play a role in aging, heart disease, cancer and most degenerative diseases. The less you are exposed to these free radicals, the lower your breast cancer risk. There are tests available that can determine your body's free radical exposure.
Anti-oxidants search for free radicals, neutralize and protect you. Examples of anti-oxidants are Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta-carotene. These substances are found in fruits and vegetables.
Other powerful anti-oxidants include colorful vegetables that contain carotenes, pigmented fruits like cherries and blueberries. Garlic is also a powerful anti-oxidant. Folic acid and other B vitamins help repair damaged DNA. Folic acid is also present in dark green leafy vegetables, fruit and peas. Green tea is another powerful antioxidant. It has been studied extensively and has been proven to be effective in preventing cancer.
Are We Eating Ourselves To Death?
Many scientists believe that changing our diet could prevent 80% of all cancers. Study after study substantiates the link between diet and cancer. Almost every aspect of your diet has an effect on hormone production and metabolism. The average American diet is riddled with meats that normally contain toxins that alter hormone function or damage DNA. Many food additives also damage DNA. Combined, the two factors that cause breast cancer, DNA damage and hormone stimulation can be linked to diet. Decreasing meat consumption is recommended, if you want to decrease your cancer risk.
Good oils are omega 3 and 9. These oils are found in cold water fish like salmon and mackerel. Olive oil is high in omega-9. Use olive oil whenever you cook with oil. Consuming 2 grams of fish oil a day will decrease your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Other oils can cause cells to function improperly. The processing of oils from seeds produce omega-6 oils. Omega 6 oils that have been hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated are especially harmful. These oils are used as preservatives and found in almost every packaged food to preserve freshness. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) damage cell membranes, which make the cell more susceptible to damage. The oils also direct estrogen toward the more dangerous cancer-causing pathway.
Decreasing sugar and simple carbohydrates consumption decreases your insulin levels, protecting you against cancer. Insulin can stimulate cancer cell growth. Increasing your fiber consumption, limiting alcohol, and increasing foods that are antioxidants all play a role in prevention.
Stress Harms & Can Kill
It’s been suggested that a large number of breast cancer patients are diagnosed following a stressful event in their lives. Those who neglecting their own emotional needs for the sake of others appear to risk developing breast cancer at a higher percentage. Living in a state of high stress levels results in the constant release of a stress hormone called cortisol. High cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time impair the function of the immune system. The immune system is responsible for detecting and eliminating abnormal cells, including the cells damaged by the free radicals we discussed earlier. High cortisol levels decrease thyroid and insulin function. Low thyroid and insulin resistance are both associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Elevated cortisol increases estrogen levels, which stimulates breast cell growth.
If you experience anxiety, difficulty sleeping or chronic fatigue, testing cortisol levels in the saliva may be helpful in diagnosing and treating your condition. If these symptoms began after a stressful event or a series of stressful events you may be suffering from abnormal cortisol levels. Covering these symptoms with sleeping pills and antidepressants will not correct the problem. Nor will it allow the immune system to repair itself or aid in its ability to rid the body of possible cancer causing cells. Exercise also helps! Call your doctor today if this might apply to you.
While October is best known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are other important diseases and topics honored this month. Raising awareness and becoming involved in events is an excellent way to share your passions with others, while maintaining and encouraging healthy lifestyles.
• National Breast Cancer Awareness
• National Down Syndrome Awareness Month
• SIDS Awareness Month
• Spina Bifida Awareness Month (promoted by the Spina Bifida Association)
• Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
• Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day (15th)
• Domestic Violence Awareness Month
• Mental Illness Awareness Week (first full week of October)
• World Mental Health Day (10th)
• Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week (12th-20th)
• National Health Education Week (third full week of October)
• International Infection Prevention Week (third full week of October)
• Respiratory Care Week (last full week of October)
• Healthy Lung Month
• Red Ribbon Week (last week of October)
• Eye Injury Prevention Month
• Home Eye Safety Month
• Health Literacy Month
• National Physical Therapy Month