THE NATIONAL Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), was founded by AstraZeneca, the giant pharmaceutical company which manufactures the breast cancer drugs Arimidex and Tamoxifen.
The aim of the NBCAM from the beginning was to promote mammography as the most effective weapon against breast cancer. There is even a special Mammography Day during NBCAM. The month's message is simple - have your breast cancer diagnosed early.
Breast cancer is now the commonest cancer among our women. The chance of a woman developing breast cancer in her lifetime is nearly one in eight or about 12 per cent. Despite all the emphasis on the early detection of breast cancer by NBCAM, the incidence of this deadly disease has continued to rise at an alarming rate.
Prevention is cure
There is tremendous validity to Benjamin Franklyn's old adage: 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'. Winning the war on cancer means preventing cancer. Medical authorities and governmental health agencies are failing to make the pivotal and empowering statement to our ladies: Breast cancer can be prevented.
Yes individuals may benefit from early detection, but I am critical of NBCAM because it focuses so much on "early detection and treatment", while giving little attention to the many well-known causative factors. Studies show that breast cancer is linked to several lifestyle and environmental factors that can be controlled.
What causes breast cancer?
The evidence is overwhelming that the female hormone, oestrogen, is deeply involved in the development of most cases of breast cancer. It is the oestrogen dependent type of breast cancer that is most commonly diagnosed today and is responsible for the escalation in this disease.
Oestrogen encourages the tissues cells in the breast to multiply. In today's world, our women are exposed to more oestrogen than ever before, especially unhealthy or 'bad' forms of oestrogen and this puts them at serious risk. Dr Aaron Blair of the National Cancer Institute suggests that hormone use is one of the major factors affecting breast cancer risk.
Cancer prevention plan
Eat Right: A diet low in animal fat and high in fibre is essential. The major part of your diet should come from plant based foods, such as, fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, whole grain cereals, beans, legumes, ground provisions, vegetable soups and fresh juices. Research shows that the fibre in these foods actually helps the body eliminate cancer causing oestrogen's from the body.
Eat soy-based foods. They contain natural substances called isoflavones that protect the breast from cancer. Isoflavones are technically known as Selective Oestrogen Receptor Modulators. These substances are not oestrogen and actually protect the cells in the breast from the powerful oestrogen like chemicals. Despite what you may hear, there is no medical evidence that soy causes cancer.
On the contrary, the research suggests that increased soy consumption decreases the risk of many cancers including breast and prostate cancer. A high quality soy-based protein shake, fermented soy foods like miso, tempeh and tofu, textured vegetable protein and roasted soy nuts are excellent anti-cancer foods.
Drink green tea. Green tea contains cancer protecting antioxidants called polyphenols that Japanese researchers have found reduces the risk of breast cancer by 50 per cent in women who drink green tea daily.
Eat cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and others such as tomatoes and carrots as they contain powerful anti-cancer agents. Women also reduce their risk of breast cancer by eating foods containing compounds called lignans, found in flax seed, broccoli, kale, strawberries and unprocessed grains.
Reduce meats and dairy products, as they are the major dietary sources of dangerous oestrogen-like chemicals. The fatty parts of beef, chicken and pork are particularly dangerous as these chemicals are usually concentrated in the fat. Tinned, preserved or fried meats like bacon and sausage contain the preservative sodium nitrite, which is also cancer causing. Minimise refined sugar use as sugar promotes the growth of cancer cells.
I suggest taking a good multivitamin and mineral tablet to supplement each meal on a daily basis. I also recommend the antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E and selenium (the ACES), as well as the antioxidant herbs - schizandra, rosemary, pycnogenol and garlic. Other herbs like red clover and Kudzu, like soy, contain isoflavones and Tang Quei promote a healthy hormonal balance in women. The omega 3 fatty acids and evening primrose oil also assist hormonal equilibrium. Melatonin, a hormone produced in your brain, also aids in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
Change your lifestyle
Correct obesity as this is a risk factor for breast cancer. Fat cells create additional oestrogen and this can promote breast cancer. Weight (fat) loss along with moderate exercise will decrease your cancer risk. The World Cancer Research Fund states that cancers could be prevented by regular exercise like daily brisk walking or other moderate exercise.
Avoid toxins like tobacco smoke and minimise your alcohol intake as both increase breast cancer risk. Drinking alcohol increases the levels of oestrogen in your blood. Use natural skin and hair care products as many hair dyes and personal care items contain carcinogens. Avoid environmental pollution, unnecessary drugs use and be careful with household chemicals.
Expose your skin to sunshine. A daily half hour sunbath is ideal and the darker your skin the more sunshine you need. The sun creates vitamin D in your skin and optimal levels of vitamin D protects from many cancers including breast and prostate cancer. Regular sunshine also improves the body's production of melatonin.
Manage stress because chronic stress raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels impair the body's immune system and weaken your resistance to cancer and other diseases.
Manage the menopause naturally using bio-identical hormone replacement therapy as this is a safe alternative to synthetic and horse derived hormones. Hormone replacement can be both safe and effective if we replace what is missing with the same substance. Natural progesterone cream for example, is a useful tool in managing the menopause while protecting the breast from cancer.
Check your breasts
In addition to your prevention programme, it is definitely wise to check for any breast lumps. When it comes to breast cancer, ignorance is not bliss. Regular examination of your breasts is essential.
But use mammograms sparingly, especially if you have not reached the menopause. The pre-menopausal breast is extremely sensitive to radiation, and mammograms expose the breast to significant amounts of radiation. Deaths from breast cancer is greater among women who had regular mammography before they reached the menopause. Other studies suggest that the tight compression of the breast during mammograms, may promote the spread of pre-existing cancer cells.
You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at email@example.com or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.