March 14, 2023

Breast Cancer: Shifting our focus from early detection to PREVENTION

Check out our blog post on the prevention of breast cancer

Women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. That is a staggering statistic to wrap your head around! Did you know?… It has been suggested that 50% of breast cancer occurrences are due to dietary and environmental factors. Let’s shift our focus from early detection to PREVENTION of breast cancer.

Why has breast cancer become more prevalent?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. It is estimated that 2.3 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed globally each year (Łukasiewicz S). Why do the rates continue to increase? This could be due to increased screening for breast cancer. Screening recommendations start at age 40 or earlier if there is a personal or hereditary risk. But….environmental and lifestyle are also playing a role. Let’s dive into this a little deeper…

Who is at higher risk of developing breast cancer?

  • Those with a family history

  • Endometriosis

  • Fibroids

  • Heavy periods

  • Painful periods

  • Fibrocystic breasts

The last 5 symptoms listed here are classically signs of estrogen dominance. Let’s look at what causes estrogen dominance…

Diet as a cause?

The SAD (standard american diet) is linked to weight gain, diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome and can cause our hormone metabolites (how the body breaks down hormones) to be pushed into an inflammatory, pro-cancer pathway, as well as promoting estrogen dominance. In contrast, diets high in antioxidant capacity i.e. colorful vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and adequate protein can push hormone metabolites into an anti-inflammatory pathway and promote healthy hormone detoxification. Testing for hormone metabolites can be done through urinary testing like a DUTCH TEST and advanced blood markers can clue your practitioner into how well your body is detoxing in general. And of course, the gut plays a role….

So…what about the gut?

The gut is central to all of this (and my favorite topic ;)). How does the gut affect estrogen metabolism? When the gut bacteria is imbalanced, overgrown or insufficient there is potential for pathogenic bacteria to grow increasing inflammation in the body as well as production of an enzyme called beta glucuronidase. This is an important component to estrogen metabolism. Beta glucuronidase, made in the gut, by bacteria in the gut, does not allow our bodies to detox from excess estrogen or other toxins. Essentially these toxins and estrogens are recirculated causing increased toxic load and estrogen dominance. This increased toxic load leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and greater cancer risk. Getting your gut right is SOOOO important!

What about genetics?

Genetics play a role in breast cancer risk as well, although only 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary and most are due to the BRCA gene mutations . There are other gene SNP’s (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that play a role in estrogen metabolism like COMT and MTHFR. These genes can be tested so you know if you are at increased risk and lifestyle interventions can be started to reduce your risk. Genetics load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.

Here are some more stats on how lifestyle affects breast cancer risk…

Dietary changes: reduce risk by 65%

increase fiber: 18% reduction of risk (Farvid MS, et al)

onion and garlic consumption: 67% reduction of risk (University at Buffalo)

eliminate dairy = reduced risk (Loma Linda University)

consuming coffee = reduced breast cancer risk (Biomed Central)

Exercise: 25% reduction in risk

How does environment affect breast cancer risk?

We live in an increasingly toxic world and are exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals daily. Plastics, BPA, phalates, xenoestrogens in personal care products, pesticides, lead, arsenic, mercury etc. Here is a study linking BPA exposure to increased breast cancer risk. Increased exposure to these toxins increases our risk of breast cancer by increasing our exogenous estrogen load, damaging our mitochondria and detoxification capacity. Read my article on DITCH AND SWITCH TO NON-TOXIC PRODUCTS to reduce your exposure at home.

What should you do?

  1. Get your gut right! Schedule a wellness consult with comprehensive stool analysis

  2. Serum lab evaluation of hormones and advanced bio marker testing

  3. Increase surveillance through mammogram, MRI or thermography

  4. Have your hormone metabolites tested through DUTCH testingschedule a wellness consult to have this done. Urinary metabolite testing looks at the pathways your hormones are being metabolized in (pro or anti-inflammatory). This is important to have done with any increased risk of breast cancer.

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