A colleague and friend, Dr. Pat Riley, and I decided over a year ago to write a book together on breast cancer prevention. Over the years, we have seen many breast cancer patients and have felt frustrated that most of the emphasis has been on treatment of the disease and very little has been done on educating the public on prevention and risk reduction of breast cancer. Research has convinced us that breast cancer occurrence could indeed be substantially reduced if women knew what to do and what to avoid.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the risks are highest in the female population between the ages of 25 and 65 in the United States. My patients with breast cancer often ask what they can do to reduce the risk in their preadolescent and teenage daughters. Some studies show that the predisposition for breast cancer starts in the womb. Men are also affected, not only through the women in their lives, but because they too can become breast cancer victims.
There are a number of tools that are used to assess your relative breast cancer risk. They include genetic testing, regular breast screenings, tests to detect environmental toxic exposure, and histories of hormonal use, alcohol consumption use and biorhythm factors including age, time of period onset, pregnancy history, breast feeding, age at first delivery and last delivery and obesity. Genetic testing and early detection screenings are useful tools, although genetic testing can create stress of its own and excessive mammography exposes you to unnecessary radiation.
A better way is to use regularly breast thermography, which detects temperature variations in tissues, supplemented with ultrasound exam and occasional mammography to bolster early detection.
Environmental factors, such as xenoestrogens from pesticides and PCBs from plastics, also predispose you to breast cancer and other cancers. Below is a checklist that assesses your risk level in developing breast cancer. The more factors you have checked off, the higher the likelihood.
- Oral contraceptives, early and prolonged use of estrogen replacement therapy with high doses, fertility drugs
- Pre-menopausal mammography, with early and repeated exposure
- Non-hormonal prescription drugs such as some anti-hypertensives
- Silicone gel breast implants, especially those wrapped in polyurethane foam
- Diets high in animal fat contaminated with undisclosed carcinogenic and estrogenic chemicals, and dairy products contaminated with growth hormone
- Diets high in pesticide / herbicide-ridden produce
- Regularly heating food with plastic containers, and drinking only plastic bottled water
- Domestic exposure to household chemicals or pollutants from chemical plants and hazardous waste sites
- Workplace exposure to a wide range of carcinogens and lifestyle risks
- Alcohol, with early and excessive use
- Tobacco, with early and excessive use
- Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle
- Chronic insomnia or long term sleep deprivation
- Prolonged periods of intense stress and emotional trauma
- Hair dyes, with early and prolonged use
If you have checked off a number of the above risk factors, do not panic.
Visit a holistically-minded gynecologist or women’s health specialist for regular screenings. Commit to eliminating most, if not all, of the risk factors from your life. Make an appointment with a natural medicine practitioner, such as a doctor of Oriental medicine, to implement a preventive program. Start a supervised detoxification program and implement ways to boost your immune system with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Learn and practice tai chi and meditation, both of which have been shown to reduce stress and improve the immune system’s natural killer-cell activities. Also, begin a cancer-prevention diet and restore the healthy rhythms in your lifestyle where work and play are balanced with adequate rest and relaxation.
One in seven women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. You do not have to be a sitting duck waiting for breast cancer to happen to you. Start being proactive with prevention. With knowledge and determination, you can positively lower your risks of developing the disease and SAY NO TO BREAST CANCER!