10 Strategies to Prevent and Treat Breast Cancer - Dr. Mark Hyman

10 Strategies to Prevent and Treat Breast Cancer

“I’m at high risk for breast cancer based on my genetic history,” writes a longtime reader. “What advice do you have to prevent it, or if someone has it, to potentially reverse breast cancer?”

Recently I discussed how traumatizing receiving the news that a loved one or even yourself has cancer can be, and then provided five strategies to reverse or prevent cancer.

October is National Breast Cancer Month. The focus becomes so important because breast cancer has increased dramatically over the past few decades.

Whereas one in 20 women had it in the 1960s, today that number has risen to one in eight women. According to The American Cancer Society, over 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2015.

These and other statistics suggest environmental factors are driving cancer. What we eat, toxins, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, and other problems in modern-day society become catalysts to increase breast cancer risk.

Terrifying as those statistics can be, the good news is that you can implement a number of powerful, simple things to prevent or even reverse breast cancer.

Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger. Even if you have a familial history of breast cancer, you are never doomed. Even if your doctor gives you the dismal news, you have an arsenal of tools to reverse breast cancer.

As beneficial and lifesaving as they can be, conventional therapies like radiation and chemo overlook how simple but powerful things like diet, toxins, and digestion contribute to cancer.

I recently met with the physician at Cleveland Clinic in charge of the breast cancer program.   She was very interested in our new Center for Functional Medicine. She explained they focused on screening, early detection and treatment.  In addition, they focused on ongoing screening and tracking of women after breast cancer treatment, something called active surveillance. This is really inactive surveillance because they don’t do anything, between visits, to empower women to truly prevent the disease by changing the “soil” in which the cancer grew.  We have begun to explore a program of not just screening, but actively assessing the root causes. Things like hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, toxin overload, gut health and more. We want to optimize women’s health so they don’t get breast cancer, if they are at risk, or prevent recurrence if they have been treated.

There are plenty of things you can do between visits to prevent or reverse breast cancer.

In my practice, I take a different approach through Functional Medicine, which considers the factors that increase breast cancer risk and then eliminates them. From that perspective, you can literally change the soil in which cancer grows.

Imbalances in seven key systems in your body contribute to breast cancer and every other disease. Among these seven key systems include hormonal imbalances such as high insulin levels that eventually create insulin resistance.

Sugar becomes the driver behind high insulin levels. Every time you eat sugar, you raise insulin levels, which make cancer cells grow and promote inflammation.

High insulin levels also increase estrogen levels. High estrogen levels correlate with increased breast cancer risk.

Sugar, especially as high-fructose corn syrup and other processed carbohydrates, surges your insulin levels, increasing estrogen in the bargain.

Put bluntly: Every time you eat sugar, you increase your risk for breast cancer.

Increased insulin also means your body becomes really good at storing fat, and a vicious cycle ensues as your insulin and estrogen levels stay cranked up. Studies show excess body fat increases your risk for breast cancer.

So now you’re overweight, paving the path for diabesity, inflamed, with high estrogen levels. Can you see how this quickly becomes a recipe for disaster?

When you deprive someone of sugar and then inject radioactive sugar, that sugar goes right to cancer cells, which triggers insulin, inflammation, all while feeding the cancer cells. Cancer cells love sugar.

To become proactive and prevent or reverse breast cancer, you absolutely want to eliminate sugar. For my breast cancer patients, I recommend going cold turkey on sugar and processed foods.

The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet provides a comprehensive, easy-to-follow plan that eliminates sugar, gluten, dairy, and other reactive foods in yes, just 10 days.

Diet plays a major role in breast cancer, but so do other factors like environmental toxins. The most damaging ones include estrogen and substances that mimic it, which we call xenoestrogens.

Xenoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors that activate estrogen, stimulating cancer pathways. In fact, these estrogen mimickers are 1,000 times more powerful than estrogen, and they react synergistically.

Digestive health also plays more of a role in your breast cancer risk than you might think. Healthy gut flora – maintaining the correct ratio of healthy bacteria in your gut – improves your immune system and also helps you better break down food and detoxify the estrogen made in your body after it’s been used.

Bad gut flora means that excess estrogen becomes reabsorbed rather than eliminated, creating estrogen dominance and all its risks. One meta-analysis found increased use of antibiotics, which kill off bad as well as good bacteria, increase your risk for breast cancer.

I could go on, but you can begin to understand how dietary and lifestyle factors play significant roles in breast cancer. The good news is many of these factors are within your control. You have the power to prevent or reverse breast cancer.

Implement These Key Strategies to Reverse or Prevent Breast Cancer

Conventional medicine oftentimes overlooks simple but powerfully effective ways to prevent or reverse breast cancer, lose weight, and create abundant health. In my practice, I’ve found these 10 strategies incredibly helpful to do all that and more.

  1. Fiber up. Fiber becomes critical for gut and therefore overall health. Your goal should be 35 grams per day. High-fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice and ground flax seed. Consider a fiber supplement if you’re not getting your complete quota from food.
  2. Have protein at every meal. Good protein sources include fish, lean poultry, beans, nuts, eggs, and soy. Make sure you include a few vegetarian options in your daily protein intake. Check out my favorite high-protein breakfast recipes here.
  3. Supplement wisely. At the very least, you want to take a good multivitamin/ mineral as well as fish oil. To use just one example, optimal levels of the B vitamin folate helps prevent breast and other cancers. You can find these and other supplements in my store.
  4. Control stress levels. Studies connect chronic stress levels with increased breast cancer risk. Whether you opt for meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or another de-stressor, find something that works for you and do it. My UltraCalm CD becomes a great way to melt away stress and anxiety.
  5. Restore gut health. Leading researchers at Cleveland Clinics discovered gut microflora influences cancer genes and your immune system. Tend your inner garden with gut-supporting foods like fermented foods as well as fiber and probiotics. If you suspect gut issues like leaky gut or IBS, work with a functional practitioner to correct them.
  6. Reduce your toxic load. Visit the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to learn ways to reduce toxic exposure.
  7. Exercise regularly. Studies show regular exercise can decrease your breast cancer risk. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, helping you balance estrogen and maintain a healthy body weight. No matter what your fitness level, you’ll find an easy-to-apply exercise plan here.
  8. Go clean and green. Choose filtered water and organic food. Always opt for high-quality meat sources like wild salmon and grass-fed beef. Become more aware about how things like household cleaners and cosmetics can increase your toxic load at the EWG.
  9. Watch the alcohol. One glass of wine a day increases your breast cancer risk 40 percent. Increased alcohol load means your liver can’t metabolize estrogen well. If you drink, limit wine to one glass three times a week. One drink is five ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol, or 12 ounces of beer.
  10. Get great sleep. Studies show an inverse association between sleep duration and breast cancer risk. Aim for eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. Grab my 19 top sleep tips here.

When it comes to cancer – and really, optimal health – we’re all in this together. We can all learn from each other. If you’ve found ways to reduce your breast cancer risk, I want to hear from you. I would love to hear your thoughts below or on my Facebook page.

P.S. My colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Boham, has created a special DVD called the Breast Wellness Program which will be available soon. Sign-up here to learn more.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD


Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.


If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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