Benjamin Franklin’s old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is never more appropriate than when it comes to breast cancer prevention. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, at least 33 percent of breast cancer is preventable. Many natural health practitioners suspect that percentage is actually much higher. By simply adopting healthy lifestyle practices, it is estimated that you can bring that breast cancer prevention figure closer to 50 percent.
It is crucial to learn the things that can put women at higher risk for breast cancer. Not only do you want to avoid these risk factors, but also teach your daughters (and sisters and friends) about them. As a breast cancer coach, I always discuss these important breast cancer prevention tips with my clients.
7 Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention
Better Nutrition Comes from Whole Foods and Organic Foods
A healthy diet that provides good nutrition is the foundation of having good health. It is critical to teach our children how to eat wholesome nutritious foods and avoid packaged, processed foods. The goal is to avoid or minimize sugar, and to get back to the basics of wonderfully prepared natural and organic whole foods including vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and high quality free-range animal foods. Our bodies were designed to operate optimally on a whole foods diet (not a processed foods diet) and certainly not on chicken nuggets, soft drinks, and French fries.
The need for everyone to eat organic produce is at an all-time high due to our fruits and vegetables being so highly sprayed with cancer-causing pesticides. Many foods are genetically modified and it is becoming increasingly clear that GMOs are not safe for us to consume. In addition, soil depletion is occurring, which yields crops that are lower in nutrients than what was being produced just a few decades ago.
Organically grown animal foods are also a much better choice because conventionally raised animals are being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics that are increasing the incidence of breast cancer. These factory farmed animals also eat a diet that is unnaturally high in foods (corn and soy) that promote inflammation (high in omega-6 fats) when we consume them. Choosing organic produce and animal foods (preferably pasture-raised because these animals are, for the most part, eating what nature intended them to eat and will be much lower in omega-6 fats) not only decreases your cancer risk, it is also much better for the planet.
Avoid Toxic Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
Toxic chemicals are now present in just about everything we use in our homes and on our bodies, from dish washing liquid to eye shadow. These chemicals (and there are about 70,000 of them) are known hormone disrupters.
In addition to being toxic and carcinogenic, these substances can increase the estrogen load in the body over time and are difficult to detoxify through the liver. Called “xenoestrogens” (foreign estrogens), they mimic our body’s own estrogen and can alter hormone activity. Growing evidence implicates xenoestrogens in a wide range of human health problems, including breast cancer.
The easy solution is to use non-toxic or organic personal care products and cosmetics. It is important to know that the word “natural” on the label means almost nothing because the product can still contain toxic chemicals. It is best to look for organic certification on the label and to know what ingredients to watch out for. What goes on your skin gets in your bloodstream so it’s important to be proactive about this and to minimize toxic chemicals. What’s in your bloodstream can easily circulate throughout your body and into cells that create your hormones and organs.
Personally, I scrutinize every single thing I put on my body and I suggest you do as well. From nail polish (don’t use it) to hair spray to mascara. A good source of information to determine the relative safety (or dangers) of ingredients in personal care products and cosmetics is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.
Move Your Body
The American Cancer Society estimates that half of all cancer deaths could be avoided by practicing healthy lifestyle habits such as simple exercise. Recent research tells us that obesity, especially in the middle-adult years, increases the risk of breast cancer.
It is important to teach your daughter an active lifestyle and it is best to lead by example. Take her hiking, skating, for long walks in parks, have her participate in sports, ballet, dancing. Whatever gets her moving and enjoying physical activity! Also, tell her why it is so important.
Keep Your Cell Phone Away from Your Body and Out of Your Bra
Studies have determined that heavy use of cell phones increases the chance for brain tumors. Children are more vulnerable to electromagnetic frequencies because they have thinner skull bones and smaller heads. Their brain tissue also has a higher conductivity and this puts them at a higher risk.
Although there does not at present appear to be any studies which link breast cancer risk with cell phone use, I have seen too many women use their bras to hold their cell phones. As a cancer coach, I know of several women who tucked their cell phones into their bras and later developed breast cancer in that breast.
A doctor at an alternative cancer clinic being interviewed stated that three women under his care at that time for breast cancer had very often placed their cell phones either under the bra strap or in their bra and developed a tumor in that exact location! We may not know for sure that cell phones cause breast cancer, but it is relatively simple to put your cell phone elsewhere, away from your body.
Use Meditation or Other Relaxation Techniques
It has long been known that prolonged periods of unmanaged stress can lead to diseases such as cancer. Nearly every one of my coaching clients tells me that they were under an extraordinary load of stress in the lead-up to their breast cancer diagnosis. Doctors tend to refute this, but science is starting to catch up and understand how cortisol, the main hormone that is released during periods of stress, can lead to disease such as breast cancer.
One of the best things you can teach your daughter is meditation. Children who learn how to meditate and relax deal more effectively with stress. They also learn how to live in the moment more often, how to distance themselves from stress and anxiety, and how to settle their minds, thus reducing cortisol levels and so much more. Again, this is about you leading by example because if your daughter still lives at home with you, she may be less likely to do this if she doesn’t see you doing it. If you don’t know how, perhaps you can learn and meditate together.
Don’t Smoke and Don’t Drink Alcohol (or Keep it to a Minimum)
You’ve heard this before and it’s so important that it bears repeating. Both smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol puts you at a higher risk for breast cancer, other cancers, and heart disease. Smoking has been linked with increased cancer risk, especially if someone smokes regularly before their first child. If you or your daughter smokes and has trouble quitting, switch to American Spirit additive-free cigarettes. Even better and cheaper is to roll your own with non-toxic paper using organic tobacco. Even getting away from commercial cigarette brands is a huge step in the right direction.
Studies on alcohol have shown that compared with non-drinkers, people that have one alcoholic drink per day have a small increase in risk. However those who have two to five drinks daily increase their breast cancer risk by one-and-a-half times over those who do not drink alcohol.
Avoid Birth Control Pills
Most doctors, after writing a prescription for birth control pills, likely don’t tell their patients, “you are increasing your risk of cancer”. Oral contraceptives increase a woman’s risk of certain cancers. In particular, cancers of the breast, cervix, and liver, says the National Cancer Institute’s own website. A recent study done with African American women revealed that oral contraceptive use increased the risk of estrogen-receptor positive, estrogen-receptor negative, and triple negative breast cancers. The risk declined after a woman stopped using oral contraceptives, but was still a causative factor for estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer for up to 15-19 years after stopping, and even longer for estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer.
Teaching Breast Cancer Prevention by Example
Simply understanding the factors that puts women at a higher risk for breast cancer is not enough. It’s critical for you to live by example and if you don’t know, then learn the breast cancer signs for yourself and teach them to your daughter. Encourage your daughter to be proactive with her health and not expect her doctor to take care of her because they either can’t or won’t.
Each one of us has our own responsibility to be properly informed about breast cancer prevention and websites such as The Truth About Cancer will give you trustworthy and accurate information you can follow. It’s now up to you to take the necessary steps… both for your sake and for the women you love.