BREAST CANCER- CAN WE PREVENT IT?
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in women age 45-55, but nowadays it can happen even in women who are in their late twenties. The majority of these cases are hormone-sensitive breast cancers.
for breast cancer such as early periods, late menopause, never being pregnant or pregnancy after the age of 30, never having breastfed, family history of breast cancer etc. that are supported by research and conventional medicine cannot explain it’s high incidence anymore. Many women today don’t even have any of these risk factors. One in eight women suffers from breast cancer which is much higher than 50 years ago when this ratio was one in twenty. 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer!
Something in our environment has gone wrong in the past few decades which is increasing the number of these cases, and we can now confidently label breast cancer as an environmental disease. New research has provided more evidence that for this hormone-sensitive cancer, toxicity in our environment is immensely responsible. A recent study recognized 17 chemicals as a cause of breast cancer.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer ( IAEC 2012) preventable risk factors for breast cancer include increased weight after menopause, medical radiation, reproductive history characteristics , lack of physical exercise, alcohol consumption ( 2 -3 glasses daily increase 40-70% risk) HRT (Estrogen/progestin), combination birth control pill, diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth , and tobacco. The latest research has been trying to identify toxic substances from our environment that are increasing breast cancer incidence to encourage prevention by the public as well as by conventional doctors.
One group which is well recognized by integrative medicine is the xenoestrogen group which encompasses synthetic chemicals that mimic natural estrogen. It has been linked to many health problems including breast cancer. Many of them are present in a woman’s everyday life. For example phthalates and parabens from personal care and cosmetic products, Bisphenols from receipts and plastic bottles, polystyrene food packaging; fuel exhaust, pesticides, food preservatives etc.
Science supports that estrogen-sensitive cancers are more frequent in women that have genes responsible for an unfavorable estrogen metabolism. Some of these detoxification genes are responsible for the formation of dangerous estrogen metabolites that are DNA damaging and can initiate the developing breast cancer. Some of them just decrease estrogen clearance (methylation) which contributes to estrogen dominance. One such gene is COMT and it increases the risk of breast cancer four-fold. Research has concluded that xenoestrogens may strongly inhibit COMT- mediated methylation of estrogens and may facilitate the development of estrogen-induced cancers. Nutritional deficiencies like folate can also contribute to this problem. To put it simply: the presence of a gene does not mean much if a person is living a “clean” lifestyle and has balanced nutrition. The opposite is also true, a very toxic lifestyle can “switch off” (epigenetic effect) genes responsible for estrogen detoxification and the accumulation of dangerous estrogen metabolites. Identifying an individuals estrogen metabolism by checking genes, metabolites and recognizing the environmental toxins present is the foundation of breast cancer prevention.
Integrative medical physicians have a well-defined strategy on how to “manipulate“ this gene-environment interaction. One example is the use of I3C. I3C has similar effects to Tamoxifen. I3C inhibits the growth of estrogen (ER+) positive breast cancer cells by 90% compared to 60% by Tamoxifen. It is imperative to always address estrogen dominance status irrespective of whether it is coming from a women’s own estrogen or environmental chemicals that are mimicking estrogen. That is the reason why integrative medical doctors advise against using HRT that contains equine estrogen and chemically altered progestins (well recognized in studies to be carcinogenic) and recommend using bioidentical hormones. Studies established that using bioidentical progesterone because of its deficiency in estrogen dominant women can prevent breast cancer.
The cause of breast cancer is multifactorial and that makes prevention more difficult. A recent meta-analysis of five studies published by Anticancer Research (USA) found that patients diagnosed with breast cancer who had high vitamin D levels had double the survival rate compared to women with low levels. Additionally, a high intake of carbohydrates doubles the risk of breast cancer and insulin resistance, with constantly high insulin levels, increases the risk of breast cancer by more than 200%. Having good genes and no family history of breast cancer but low vitamin D, high insulin, toxic lifestyle, estrogen dominance and high alcohol intake could be the reason why some women are the first to develop breast cancer in the families without a history of it.
Evidently, the complex nature of breast cancer determines the difficulties in preventing it. But discoveries in scientific publications relating to cause and prevention should be adopted by conventional and integrative doctors, associations and the public to fight this 21-century monster.
References available on request.