Chances are, you know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that every day, 74 new Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 14 will die from this disease in 2019. Breast cancer represents about 25% of all cancers diagnosed in women in 2019. Why is this such a prevalent cancer at this time? The answer most likely lies in the environment. More specifically, endocrine-disrupting chemicals are of particular concern in our world today. Examples: polychlorinated compounds, pesticides, natural/synthetic hormones in water supply, and various consumer products containing chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, glycol ethers, fragrances, cyclosiloxanes, and bisphenol A (BPA). However, there is a vast number of other potential risk factors increasing the incidence of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Family history of breast cancer (especially in immediate family)
Early onset of menses (11 years old or younger)
Late onset of menopause (55 years old or older)
Hormone replacement therapy use, including birth control
Obesity (Body Mass Index >25)
High saturated fat diet (that is, high in arachidonic acid)
High carbohydrate diet (ie high glycemic index)
More than 1/2 glass of red wine daily (>2.5 oz of alcohol per day)
Exposure to carcinogens, xenoestrogens, plastics
Low vitamin D (and vitamin K)
Excess stress (leading to high cortisol levels)
But there is so much hope! Through better lifestyle choices, regular aerobic exercise, stress management and dietary changes, you can dramatically reduce you risk of breast cancer.
Lifestyle & Dietary Suggestions
Aerobic exercise 30 minutes 3 times per week (gradually work your way up to 30min)
Intermittent fasting 12-16 hours daily (eg no food 7:00PM to 9:00AM)
Eat seasonal organic vegetables & fruit whenever possible
Mediterranean Diet, rich in mono-unsaturated fats
Plenty of vegetables (50% of lunch & supper) w/ daily servings of Cruciferous vegetables (best is broccoli sprouts) and raw dark green leafy vegetables
Plenty of fiber, including 2 tablespoons of organic ground flax seed daily, and legumes a minimum of 2 times per week
Avoid grapefruit (inhibits estrogen detoxification in the liver)
Drink green tea daily
Reduce/remove household chemicals (especially scented items) and plastics
Switch to a natural deodorant instead of antiperspirant
Stress management through mindfulness-based practices (eg meditation)
A naturopathic doctor is trained to help you navigate through the best dietary approaches, to help maintain your body weight, keep hormones balanced, and keep your energy up! Naturopathic doctors may also give you advice on what investigative testing may best help reach a better understanding of your nutritional needs, detect hormone imbalances, and much more.
Breast Cancer Prevention: Diagnostic Screening Tools
Physical exam – Self-breast exams monthly, right after menstruation has ceased or beginning of each month if you are no longer menstruating. Get your doctor to do an exam as part of a general check-up. See here for how to do a self-breast exam: https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam
Diagnostic images – If you and your medical doctor feel a need to do further testing of a breast tissue abnormality, here are some potential options: chest x-ray, mammography, biopsy, breast MRI, bone scan, and more.
Blood work – Annual general screening recommended; be sure to follow white blood cell count and differential, thyroid function, liver function, kidney function and ferritin levels; tumour markers and cancer genes can also be used as a screening tool (CEA, CA15-3, BRCA, BRAC).
DUTCH test – Please see an earlier post here: https://www.winnipegnaturopathicdoctor.ca/spotlight-dutch-testing
Toxic exposure – There are a number of possible tests to choose from. For environmental pollutants: https://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/gpl-tox . And for toxic metals: https://www.doctorsdata.com/urine-toxic-essential-elements/
Genomic testing – Genomic testing provides potentially valuable information about genes that govern important processes like detoxification, hormone and neurotransmitter balance. Anyone can order a “Health + Ancestry” kit here: https://www.23andme.com/en-ca/ . The “raw data” from your results is then processed via an online interpretive platform such as: https://mthfrsupport.com/sterlings-app/
If you or someone you love dearly has been touched with breast cancer (or any cancer for that matter) it is a good idea to get in touch with your local naturopathic doctor. Naturopathic doctors are trained to work in alliance with medical-based treatments in addition to using natural treatments exclusively. There are a variety of natural medicines that can be considered to prevent and co-treat breast cancer and other hormone-related cancers (eg DIM, melatonin, EGCG, curcumin, vitamin D3 + vitamin K2 (MK-7), etc.). These natural medicines must be chosen carefully, based on the individual's specific needs and risks, and therefore should be done under supervision. The added bonus of consulting a registered naturopathic doctor is that naturopathic consultations and testing are often covered by extended health care plans.
1. “Naturopathic Onocology: An Encyclopedic Guide for Patients & Physicians, 3rd edition” by Dr. Neil McKinney, B.Sc, N.D. (2016)
3. “The Healthy Breast Program” (http://mammalive.net/healthy-breast-program/)