Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Pink is the color to wear in the month of October. Not only because it sets a great mood for the Fall season but because it is the color that represents Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The statistics for breast cancer in the U.S alone are staggeringly high. 1 in 8 women in the U.S is likely to develop invasive breast cancer at some time during her life. In females, the death rate due to breast cancer is higher compared to other cancers, excluding lung cancer. It is also the most commonly diagnosed cancer besides skin cancer.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an international movement with a mission to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. With all the work being done, there is still so much to do. The ‘C’ word is still very much a social taboo. Fear and uncertainty regarding cancer myths still prevails in society among women and also among men and they can only be debunked by educating the masses about the disease process, the risk factors involved, the healthy way to approach the problem, prevention, and most importantly the significance of getting themselves screened for breast cancer.

Women have to understand that breast cancer doesn’t necessarily have to ‘run in the family’ for one to be at risk. Having said this, a family history doesn’t mean that one is sure to be diagnosed, but yes it is an independent risk factor. Here are some other factors that may put one at risk for developing breast cancer:

• Family history

• Hormone replacement therapy

• Genetic mutation

• Age (most breast cancers are diagnosed at 50 or above)

• Early period (menarche)

• Late pregnancy

• Obesity

• Physical inactivity

• Certain foods may be linked to increased risk

This list might seem daunting but if you look closely half of them are actually modifiable risk factors, things that you can control. In fact, after a study called the Women’s Health Initiative was published in 2002, breast cancer rates had dropped by 7% in one year alone due to the reduced use of hormone therapy. The results proposed a link between hormone therapy and increased risk of breast cancer. If hormone therapy is prescribed for a certain condition, it is always a good to ask your doctor about alternative treatments and duration of treatment.

Among the other modifiable risk factors, one that is worth elaborating on is diet. Various researchers suggest that there may be a correlation between consumption of particular foods and increased breast cancer risk especially in females who have pre-existing risk factors.

Cancer-promoting foods:

• Foods that are high in saturated fats such as butter and high-fat meat products. A diet high in fat raises the prolactin and estrogen levels which may result in the development of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast and endometrial carcinomas.

• Dairy products such as cheese, sour cream and ice cream.

• Sugars and refined carbohydrates may increase the risk of breast cancer by a consequent increase in estrogen in response to insulin secretion. The EPIC study suggests that high carb diets are associated with the estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer.

Cancer-preventing foods:

• Green vegetables are well known for their anti-oxidant capacity and cancer-fighting properties.

One greenie in particular is broccoli. It contains indole-3 carbinol, a substance that aggressively fights cancer. It is also known to shift estrogen levels and achieve a hormonal balance thereby reducing the overall risk of breast cancer.

• Phytoestrogen containing foods such as soybean products, certain fruits and vegetables and flax seeds have shown to reduce human estrogen levels on regular and prolonged consumption.

‘Phyto’ means plant, so phytoestrogen is basically an estrogen of plant origin. A joint study suggests that women who consumed a high soy diet had less dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.

• Turmeric is a South Asian spice, yellow in color which has anti-oxidant properties. Numerous researchers have verified and validated turmeric as a potent anti-cancer superfood. Especially when it is paired with Black Pepper or Black Pepper Extract such as BioPerine.

The bottom line is eating healthy means a happier, more fit you! Like Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” because there is so much to look forward to!

Nikita Nutrition Expert and Healthy Living Advisor - Follow me on Twitter: @broadwayobgyn

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