Vitamin D and breast health: True Cancer Prevention

A new study suggests the number of cases of colon and breast cancer could be cut dramatically if people got more Vitamin D.  University of California researchers estimate 250,000 cases of colon cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D.   Sunlight spurs production of vitamin D in the skin, and people who don’t get much sun exposure tend to have lower levels of the vitamin.  “There’s been a lot of evidence for a long time that vitamin D is very important, not just for bones, which everybody knows, but for all the organs in the body,” said Dr. Larry Norton, an oncologist at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

COMMENT:  I always have a mixed set of feelings when Conventional Medical  “confirms” what I’ve been saying for many years: Vitamin D will be changed from a vitamin to a hormone due its widespread effect and importance on every organ in the body.  I feel happy for patients who will now follow through with more vitamin D; sad that many could have benefited from larger doses of vitamin D but did not because of an over-blown fear of consuming more than the recommended 400IU per day dose.  

This current article suggested dose of 2,000 IU a day will be helpful. However, is still less than Vitamin D that most people need. A study published in January, 2007 by the Council for Responsible Nutrition documented that at least10,000 IU per day is safe…that is the amount that I recommend to my patients, especially those at highest risk of breast cancer.  By the way, I don’t think it is necessary to get a blood test to “confirm” a low level. Vitamin D is inexpensive and the tests aren’t always accurate. Take the supplement and don’t bother with the blood test.

Suggestions such as high doses of Vitamin D are true prevention.  Correcting an underlying biochemical deficiency using a natural substance is definitely a step in the right direction.

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Foods for Breast Health

New, conprehensive research  shows that regular consumption of grape juice can prevent painful breast, chronic cystic mastitis and breast cancer. Scientists and natural medicine practitioners have discovered that a glass of 100 per cent grape juice made from the type of grape known as concord grapes can prevent breast cancer.

Dr. Keith Singletary, a professor of nutrition and the lead researcher at the University of Illinios stated that, “the purple grape compound demonstrated the capacity to inhibit DNA adduct formation, increase the activity of the enzymes that metabolize and detoxify carcinogens and suppress cancer causing oxidative stress.”

The new study suggests that anthocyanins in other fruits and juices,  such as cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and red apples, warrant further study for their breast cancer chemopreventive potentials.

 

COMMENT:  It has frequently been said, “You are what you eat.” Eating more fruits and veggies is important, but when it comes to breast health, specific foods are very important.  In addition to those “RED” foods listed above, here is a list of foods from a 2004 medical article that shows you how to Color Your Way Healthy with different types of fruits and vegetables:

 

  • Red Group: Tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon. Contain lycopene for prostate health, heart disease, and lung disease.

  • Yellow/Green Group: Spinach, collard greens, yellow corn, peas, avocado and honeydew melon. These foods lutein and zeaxanthin for the eyes.

  • Orange Group: Carrots, apricots, cantaloupes, acorn squash and sweet potatoes. Contain antioxidants and betacarotene.

  • Orange/Yellow Group: Oranges, papayas, peaches and nectarines. Contains cryptothanxin, for prevention of heart disease.

  • Green Group: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale. Contain  sulforaphanes, isothiocyanates and indoles which affect enzymes and break down carcinogens.  

  • White/Green Group: White wine, garlic, onions, celery, pears and chives. Contain flavonoids and  allicin, which appears to deter the growth of tumors.

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Thermogram vs. Mammogram

People often wonder if a thermogram is better than a mammogram, or if they can get a painless thermogram instead of a painful mammogram.  Though both tests are used to detect breast cancer, each test has a different purpose.

A thermogram detects subtle heat changes that point to an area of evolving pathology in the breast. This may or may not be cancer. A mammogram is used to detect a mass that has already formed in the breast, often identified by a cluster of calcium specks.  By the time a mammogram locates a tumor, it has been growing for at least 5 years.

Making the decision about getting a thermogram vs. a mammogram should be done with much discussion about risk factors, family history and lifestyle. For example, if you have had many years normal mammograms, have no family history and have a great lifestyle coupled with a normal thermogram and normal clinical exam, you may want to consider having a mammogram every three to four years and simply get an annual clinical exam and thermogram. However, if you have a very strong family history, drink alcohol and don’t take supplements, you may want to consider annual mammograms in addition to your annual exam and thermogram. If you have a very abnormal thermogram and you have not had a mammogram in several years, you must get a mammogram (and possibly an ultrasound) right away.

The most effective way to find breast cancer is to use all available tools as often as is necessary.   For example, a clinical breast exam performed by highly trained fingers can identify 61% of tumors that turn out to be cancer.  Adding a mammogram, increases the ability to find a cancer to 84%.  Research done in Montreal in the mid-1990s demonstrated that adding a thermogram to breast exam and conventional mammogram increases the ability to find cancer early — do something about it — to 95%. Thermography not just an either/or test; it is a value-added test that both you and your doctor should learn more about.

Thermography: Redefining the Meaning of Early Detection.

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A High Folate Intake Reduces Breast Cancer

NOTE: Blog posts are on M-W-F.  

In a study released August, 2007, involving 11,699 postmenopausal women aged 50 years or more, demonstrated an inverse association between folate intake and breast cancer risk. Those with the highest dietary folate intake, including supplements, had a 44 percent reduced risk of invasive breast cancer. Similarly, those with the highest intake had a 64 percent reduced risk of invasive breast cancer compared to those with the lowest quintile of intake.

COMMENT: Many medications can deplete folate from the body; Here are a few: birth control pills, anti-inflammatory drugs like methotrexate and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine); metformin (Glucophage) used in the treatment of diabetes; antibiotics like trimethoprim (Bactrim) and the anti-convulsant drug phenytoin (Dilantin). 

 

Researchers have reported an association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer in women who drink one alcoholic beverage a day. Drinking more two to five drinks per day may be associated with a rate of breast cancer that is about 40 percent higher than the rate for non-drinkers. Perhaps the link is that alcohol depletes folate.

Fortified foods such as breads and cereals are dietary sources of folic acid. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables (such as asparagus and broccoli), green peas, green beans, pinto beans, and brewer’s yeast. Orange juice, beets, dates and avocado are also good sources. Poor sources meats, chicken, milk, and most fruits. In addition, daily supplementation with B-complex can add more energy and health benefits overall, including support to your adrenal.

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Breast Cancer Genes

On July 12, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article reporting that women who possess the BRCA genetic mutations, known as “breast cancer genes” do not have a higher risk of dying than patients with no BRCA mutations.  The study was completed by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto.

“With the new study, we can offer the reassurance that in spite of a bad profile of prognostic factors in carriers, their survival rate is actually at least as good as for noncarriers,” said Technion researcher Dr. Gad Rennert.

COMMENT:  BRCA1-associated breast cancers tend to occur in younger women, are high-grade and are not estrogen-receptor positive, all factors which are associated with a poorer outcome. In addition, BRCA mutations are more common among women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. About 2 percent of all Ashkenazi women carry a mutation in one of these two genes.  Some 60 percent of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi. According to The New England Journal, learning that you have one of the genes in the presence of breast cancer adds little to a clinician’s ability to select a therapy or predict the course of disease.

 

If you have not been tested for the BRAC genes, you may decide to opt out of this testing.  Since the presence of the gene doesn’t make any difference in survival *if* you contract breast cancer, then why would you want to identify a ticking time bomb living in your chest? If you believe (even a little bit) that you get what you think about, knowing that you have a cancer gene in your breast tissue just might attract the cancer.

 

The real risk of developing breast cancer if you have one of the genes has been inconsistent in the medical literature. Despite this, many women are opting for testing and bilateral “preventive” mastectomies if they have the gene. While that may give some peace of mind, for others, a better option is close follow up and a plan of action to keep breasts healthy.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Appeal to your insurance company to pay for a baseline MRI, especially if you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. 

  • Have semi-annual clinical breast exams and thermograms instead of only annual exams.

  • Take breast healing supplements, such as DIM, calcium-d-glucarate and tumeric.

  • Use a rebounder 10 to 15 minutes a day to keep your lymphatic channels flowing.

  • And think about healthy breasts instead of worrying about getting cancer: Remember the Law of Attraction…you get what you dwell upon.

 

The Environment, Chemicals and Breast Cancer

A groundbreaking research study, coordinated by the non-profit Silent Spring Institute  and recently published by the American Cancer Society found that synthetic chemicals are playing a large role in the skyrocketing incidence of breast cancer throughout the world. 

The study identified 216 man-made chemicals—including those found in everyday products like pesticides, cosmetics, dyes, drugs and gasoline (and diesel exhaust)—that have been shown to cause breast cancer in animals. Researchers believe these substances, many of which “mimic” naturally occurring hormones (estrogens)  are to blame for the increasing prevalence of human breast cancer.

Further proof exists that the environment plays a large role breast cancer risk.  Breast cancer in adopted children parallels the risk of the family they grew up in, not that of their biological family, data originating from meticulously kept medical records throughout Scandinavian countries. 

COMMENTS: The break down of tissues and DNA by chemicals takes years. That is why finding a breast lump is not a five-alarm fire: that mass has been growing for six to seven years before it was identified on a mammogram. The three important –and simple–things a woman can do to lower risk of breast cancer are exercise, keep well hydrated, and avoid unnecessary chemicals.

  • Exercise: decreases estrogen load and reduces chemical-accumulating fat
  • Water: keeps lymphatics open and allows the body to eliminate chemicals more easily
  • Avoid chemicals: women are famous for slathering on gels, creams and lotions. Anything that is applied topically goes directly into your body. If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin.

Keeping healthy can be a little more work, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

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