Is there anyone over the age of 13 who is unaware of breast cancer? Not just because of Breast Awareness Month in October, but because almost everyone knows a woman who has had breast cancer. Breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in U.S. women.
In the most recent year for which data is available, 47,955 American women died of breast cancer. That number has held steady or increased in the last few years. Despite a slightly reduced incidence of diagnoses and deaths, an aging population means that more women will die each year—unless some effective means of prevention can be implemented. Prevention is far superior to early detection and treatment, which also bears an enormous cost in overall health, emotional trauma, and financial status.
THE RISK CAN BE REDUCED
How do you reduce the risk of lung cancer? Easy, don’t smoke or hang with smokers. How do you reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease? Again easy, do not smoke, exercise, stay slim, eat more plants and fish, less animals. What about osteoporosis? Take vitamin D3, calcium, exercise weight bearing and weight lifting, eat more plants than animal products.
So what about breast cancer?
Are there actions to effectively prevent most breast cancer cases? Emphatically, yes! Will Breast cancer Awareness Month help in that regard? Sadly, no. The month is mostly a way to increase donations to breast cancer charities like Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society. Both websites do provide some information on lifestyle factors that can reduce risk, but both are more concerned with treatments and detection. A very small percentage of their money is earmarked for prevention.
Susan G. Komen and ACS do mention the following lifestyle changes that can reduce a woman’s individual risk: 1. Have children at an early age, 2. Remain physically active, 3. Maintain a healthy weight, 4. Don’t smoke, 5. Eat a plant-based diet, 6. Reduce alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day.
Except for number one, each action will help prevent a host of other health issues—Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, other cancers, and stroke. The problem is that American women (and men) have not proven enthusiastic about doing any of them except maybe quitting smoking. After all, numbers two, three and five help maintain healthy weight, yet two thirds of American adults are overweight with one third are clinically obese. So much for lifestyle changes.
As a chiropractic doctor who has owned a gym/rehabilitation center and been a vegetarian for over 40 years, I have tried to interest my patients in lifestyle changes. I know how resistant most are to significant lifestyle changes. Everything I suggest to prevent breast cancer will also help reduce risk of other diseases. But everything I suggest will be easy, require minimal effort and cost very little.
EASY WAYS TO REDUCE RISK
The single most effective and easy preventive action is to take 5,000 IU’s (International Units) of vitamin D3 or more per day. The next time your MD orders a blood test, it should include a D3 test. Ask for it, it is more important than almost any other metabolic marker. Medical concerns about kidney stone formation should be aimed at low D3 levels, as research finds more stones form at low levels, not high.
D3 blood levels of 40-60 ng/ml have been shown to reduce risk of breast cancer (and other cancers) as much as 65 percent. If every woman would take 5,000 IU’s of D3, in less than three years, breast cancer incidence would be less than half what it is now.
D3 is the “sunshine vitamin,” forming in response to direct sunlight, but only when the sun is high overhead (around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). This is because only UVB rays produce D3, and the much more plentiful and powerful UVA does not. Sunscreen blocks production of D3. Darker skin produces less, lighter skin produces more. This may be a factor in the greater incidence and death rate of African-American women from breast cancer compared to white women.
Vitamin D3 is dirt-cheap. My wholesale supplier sells 60 capsules of 5,000 IUs for five or six dollars, depending on the discount. WalMart probably sells retail for just over that price. Other outlets will be more expensive, of course. Do not purchase D2, as it is not nearly as effective as D3.
The next action costs little or no money: sleep in complete darkness. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is responsible for an increase in breast cancer incidence that may be as high as 50 percent. Studies comparing ALAN in countries or counties reveal significant differences in breast cancer incidence. Sources of ALAN include streetlights, security lights, night-lights, devices. Turn them off or at least turn the light away from the bed. You can also use blackout curtains or a sleep mask to eliminate all ALAN.
ALAN increases breast cancer (and other cancers, but less so) because the pineal gland in the center of the brain produces a hormone, melatonin, in response to darkness. The darker the room, the more melatonin produced. Melatonin is also an immune system factor and fights cancer cells. Interestingly, blind people who perceive no light, have significantly lower incidence of all cancers. The more sunlight a person is exposed to during the day, the greater the production of melatonin that night. This is part of our ancient evolutionary responses of the circadian rhythm that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
Shift-work, in which a woman must change sleep patterns according to altering work schedules, is a major risk for increased breast cancer. Several studies found greater risk for breast cancer in nurses, airline attendants, and pilots.
Three mg of melatonin is the usual dose, but more can be taken.
Research finds that using a computer or watching television just before going to bed impedes melatonin production and disrupts sleep. On the other hand, studies show that reading in bed at night actually decreases breast cancer risk.
The third action is the reduction or elimination of milk products, carbohydrate rich foods such as bread and potatoes, and all animal foods except fish, and to instead eat more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Oops, that’s not what I promised, is it? It is not easy for most. Do it if you can—but if not, there is an alternative. It will cost a little money, though not as much as a daily latte.
Plant extracts, phytonutrients, herbs, Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) are some natural nutrients that have power to reduce risk for breast and other cancers. Life Extension Foundation’s website lists dozens of nutrients that diminish risk. Most likely to be beneficial are: curcumin, lycopene, ECGC (green tea extract), resveratrol, I3C and DIM (cruciferus vegetable extracts), iodine, soy extracts, vitamins C, E, K2 and B-complex.
MORE RISK FACTORS
There are other risk factors that should be acknowledged: household and agricultural products, pesticides and herbicides, x-ray and other ionizing radiation (including mammograms), hormone replacement therapy, obesity, dairy products, and high carbohydrate foods.
Every woman has different risks for breast cancer, but every woman can reduce her risks as much as 90 percent by using the actions listed.
Dr. Robert “Chip” Travis Jr. is a chiropractic doctor and former Navy pilot. For much more information, go to: lef.org, mercola.com, pubmed.gov, and drchiptravis.com.