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Minimising breast cancer risk

MagazineNovember 1998 (Vol. 9 Issue 8)Minimising breast cancer risk

Obesity increases your risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 50 to 100 per cent (Am J Clin Nutrition, 1987; 45: 289)

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity increases your risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 50 to 100 per cent (Am J Clin Nutrition, 1987; 45: 289). It also increases your risk of dying from the disease (Am J Clin Nutr, 1987; 45: 271-60.

Stick to a low fat, high fibre diet and cut down on animal fat, which accumulates pesticides and other contaminants.Avoid dairy products, particularly non organic foods, as much as possible. Nuclear power plants release carcinogenic byproducts such as strontium 90, a deadly radioactive isotope, into the atmosphere, which contaminate the grass and water on which dairy cows feed and make their way into products like milk and cheese. Studies of New York's Nassau and Suffolk counties, which each house a major nuclear reactor, show that the risk of dying from breast cancer there has increased sharply as strontium 90 levels have risen (Int J Health Serv, 1993; 23: 783-804).

Eat organic whole foods and organic, free range meat. Numerous studies of pesticides shows that they pose a breast cancer risk by acting as pseudo oestrogens (J Nat Cancer Inst, 1993; 85: 648-52). Non organic meat and milk are also infested with growth boosting hormones and pesticides, which increase breast cancer risk.

Avoid meat products like sausages or hot dogs containing nitrite preservatives. These form nitrosamines in the body very potent cancer causing chemicals.

Eat deep sea fish, which is less likely to be polluted with pesticides and other carcinogenic industrial wastes than fresh water fish. These include Arctic char, halibut, orange roughy, red snapper, sea bass and tuna. Wild shrimp and lobsters from Australia, California, Mexico and New Zealand are also safe.

Limit alcohol, which causes oestrogen levels to rise sharply. One drink daily poses an 11-40 per cent increase in risk for women of all ages (Cancer Causes and Control; 1994; 5: 73-82; J Nat Cancer Inst, 1995; 87: 923-9). Women on HRT are especially at high risk (JAMA; 1996; 276: 1747-51); levels of circulating oestrogen nearly double after drinking just half a glass of wine. Booze also contains carcinogenic contaminants which may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Stop smoking.

Avoid drinking tap water, which also contains industrial carcinogens (see WDDTY's sister publication, Natural Parent, vol 1, no 1, for details of water supply pollutants).

Avoid food packaging. Whenever possible, avoid buying canned foods or foods wrapped in plastic. If you must buy them, make sure to remove the food from the packaging as soon as possible. Use glass cookware for oven or microwave.

Consume unprocessed soy foods, flavonoids, fibre (in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes), olive oil, brown kelp, garlic, crucifers (such as cabbage and broccoli), carotenoids (such as carrots, squash and sweet potatoes, vitamin E and selenium rich foods, which all are proven cancer fighters.

Take regular moderate exercise (and get your daughter exercising regularly after the age of 8). A 1989 study of 7,400 women found a 70 per cent increased risk of breast cancer among inactive postmenopausal women, compared with active ones (Am J Public Health, 1989; 79: 744-50). Exercising four hours a week consistently can reduce your risk of breast cancer by up to 60 per cent (J Nat Cancer Inst, 1994; 86: 1403-8).

Avoid dyeing your hair as long as possible. If you must, consider highlights and other methods which avoid having chemicals come in direct contact with your scalp. Consult Dr Epstein's book for (mainly American) sources of non carcinogenic dyes.


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