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Breast Cancer


Introduction

More than 3 million Americans are being treated for cancer. 1.3 million individuals are newly diagnosed each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer at some time in her life. The devastating disease we know as cancer today emerged gradually and then started rising at extraordinary rates as industrial societies become more dependent on technology instead of nature. Over 200 different diseases are now classified as cancer. Evidence from a rising group of cancer survivors shows us that using every part of our lifestyle to normalize cells that are out of control offers the best chance for success.

Cancer cells are normal cells that have been altered by a chemical or other enabler that allows the cell to survive and grow uncontrolled. Cancer cells have only one job....to survive. The immune system is the body's first line of defense against cancer. Cancer is opportunistic, meaning it invades the body when the immune defenses and overall health are low. It is necessary to promote an environment where cancer and degenerative disease cannot live. These diseases do not seem to grow or take hold where oxygen and minerals are high in the vital fluids. Liver health is also vital - the liver is the body's toxin cleanser and is crucial in immune health.

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Risk Factors

The largest breast cancer increase was in women who were born in the years after World War II, an era that ushered in massive amounts of new chemicals and drugs, such as potent antibiotics, hormone therapy, and processed foods into American life. Most were developed during the press of wartime, without the normal years of testing for long term health effects. After the war, a great many of these substances found their way into agriculture and household products. Most pesticides, household chemicals and common plastics did not exist before World War II. Man-made and environmental estrogens alone can stack the deck against women by increasing their estrogen levels hundreds of times. Only in the last five years has anyone realized how common synthetic estrogens are in today's world. Smoking and long term smoke exposure increase risk; women who work around electromagnetic fields have a 38% greater risk. Breast or prostate cancer in a woman's father's family doubles her risk.

Post-menopausal, overweight women have the highest risk of breast cancer, with 75% of all cases occurring in women over 40. If you are more than 25% above your ideal body weight, your risk increases. Fat cells store environmental estrogens, pesticides, organo-chlorine residues and other chemical toxins that cause cancer. Weight gain around age 30 increases the long-term risk of breast cancer, too. A 10-pound increase raises the risk by 23%, a 15-pound increase by 37%, and a 20-pound increase by 52%. Also at risk are women who have overly high, or imbalanced estrogen levels. Those who had their first period before age 12, those who did not go through menopause until after age 55, those who did not have a child before age 30, and those who did not carry a pregnancy full-term would all fall into this risk category. Women who eat a diet high in commercial meats and dairy products have a higher risk. Many food animals are injected with hormones that once ingested, lead to overall higher estrogen levels in the body. Long term synthetic estrogen and/or oral contraceptive use, and estrogen-containing pesticides are also a risk factor for breast cancer. Regular exercise is a key to fighting breast cancer because it favorably alters body chemistry to control fat retention which stores excess estrogen, and increases fat metabolism, which helps flush out excess and environmental estrogens. Try to limit your exposure to environmental estrogens.

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Natural Prevention

Preventative nutrition, hormonal balance, lifestyle management and immune system support are crucial for breast cancer prevention. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and nutrient imbalance may lead to poor immune function. The immune system cannot defend the body properly when biochemistry is altered and as a result, cancers are able to invade the body. A low stress diet, rich in antioxidants and devoid of damaged fats, is essential to ensure optimal immunity. Note that if you are undergoing treatment for cancer in the form of chemotherapy or radiation, it is important to consult (online or in person) with a professional to determine the safe use of antioxidants and other vitamins/minerals.

While the achievement of hormonal balance may seem an arduous undertaking, if approached holistically, the results are not only effective, but safe as well. For both menstruating and peri/menopausal females, the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is critical to protect against breast cancer. A natural approach to hormone balance is very individual, but will involve avoiding commercial hormones in foods, processed phytoestrogens and chemically based estrogen mimickers or xenoestrogens. Using natural menstrual regulating approaches in place of birth control pills and limiting the use of antibiotics help limit breast cancer risk as well.

For women with a family history of breast cancer and/or a personal history of PMS, it is helpful to have your diet and hormones analyzed by a holistic practitioner (online or in person). A comprehensive 28 day female hormonal test is helpful to explore levels of salivary estrogen and progesterone. By optimizing the balance of female hormones and preventing estrogen excess, a woman is taking a very proactive approach to breast cancer prevention.

Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular exercise, especially for perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal females, plays a large role in prevention. An individualized diet that focuses on insulin regulation, blood glucose control and fatty acid balance is important to promote the achievement of ideal body fat and body weight. Consulting with a holistic practitioner (online or in person) is very helpful in determining your individual body fat goals.

Cancer treatment can be extremely difficult on the mind and body. Proper nutrition can help the body cope physically, biochemically and emotionally. Combinations of specific foods and nutrients can help produce feel good hormones and prevent depression during cancer treatment.

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References

Page L. Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone Eleventh Edition. Traditional Wisdom, Inc; 2000.

Rister S. Healing Without Medication. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc; 2003: 130-133.

Breast Cancer Prevention. National Cancer Institute. 2009. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/breast/Patient/page3#Keypoint5. Accessed on October 21, 2009.

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