Content Library Articles Breast Cancer: How to Reduce Your Risk Now

Breast Cancer: How to Reduce Your Risk Now

Breast Cancer: How to Reduce Your Risk Now
TODAY, I WOULD like to introduce you to my colleague at The UltraWellness Center in Lenox Massachusetts, Dr. Elizabeth Boham. She is a physician who practices Functional Medicine and is a Registered Dietitian. Among other things, Dr. Boham works every day with women who come to see her to help them decrease their risk of breast cancer. She wrote the following blog to give you some simple steps you can take to substantially decrease your chances of getting breast cancer. --Dr Mark Hyman Breast cancer is a serious concern, especially if you already suffered from the disease and are now afraid of a recurrence. If you are worried, it’s understandable. The incidence of breast cancer is skyrocketing ... Last year over 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 60,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer were diagnosed. A woman’s risk of getting breast cancer has jumped from 1 in 20 in the 1960s to 1 in 8 today. Tragically, more than 40,000 women died from breast cancer alone last year. Why has there been such a huge escalation in the rates of this frightening disease? What’s the cause of this epidemic and what can we do about it?
This point is especially important for postmenopausal women. Percentage of body fat is the number one risk factor for breast cancer in this population.
Getting to the bottom of these questions is of personal interest to me. When I was 30 years old, I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of invasive breast cancer. At the time I thought I was healthy ... Before I went to med school my background was in nutrition and exercise physiology. I was an athlete, an avid exerciser, and was careful with my diet. I was young, had no family history of breast cancer, nor any signs of chronic illness. So when I was told I should have a mass in my breast removed, the last thing I thought it would be was cancer. I couldn’t understand how an otherwise healthy woman, like me, could get cancer. What did I do wrong? What could I do to reduce my risk of recurrence? Looking for answers to these questions sent me on a journey through my medical training and eventually to an education in Functional Medicine. What I discovered on that journey is that there are ways you can prevent breast cancer and reduce your risk of recurrence. In today’s blog I will share what I have learned. I will explain some of the underlying root causes of breast cancer and provide 9 tips to help you reduce your risk. What Functional Medicine Teaches Us about Breast Cancer In traditional medical training you don’t learn about the impact that things like diet, toxins, and digestion have on your overall health. Certainly the connections between how your gut functions, your toxic exposure, and your risk of breast cancer is not something most doctors are taught. To find real answers to my questions about breast cancer I knew I would have to dig deeper. When I finally found functional medicine, the answers it offered were like a revelation to me. Functional Medicine teaches us that imbalances in the 7 key systems in the body can lead to a host of diseases, including breast cancer. By analyzing which of these systems are out of balance and learning how to optimize them, you can decrease your risk of getting breast cancer or suffering a recurrence. When it comes to breast cancer specifically, there are many pieces to the puzzle, but one of the keys is balancing your estrogen levels. High levels of estrogen consistently correlate with breast cancer in most scientific studies. The first step to creating and maintaining estrogen balance is to overcome high-fructose corn syrup, highly-refined and processed carbohydrates, or the multitude of other forms it comes in, your body sends out more insulin than it can properly use and you develop insulin resistance. What most people DON’T realize is that as your insulin levels increase your estrogen levels increase as well. That means your risk of breast cancer goes up every time you eat too much sugar! However, the havoc that insulin wreaks doesn’t stop there. Insulin resistance also increases the amount of body fat you have. As your body fat increases, so does an enzyme in your fat called aromatase. Aromatase turns hormones made in other organs in your bodies (such as your adrenal glands) into estrogen. That means your estrogen levels are raised even more, making your risk of breast cancer that much greater. This point is especially important for postmenopausal women. Percentage of body fat is the number one risk factor for breast cancer in this population. Excess insulin causes other problems that contribute to you risk as well: it may stimulate the growth of tumors in your body and increase systemic inflammation which is a leading factor in cancer of any kind. There are medications available that can help counteract these conditions. You can take aromatase inhibitors which are designed to prevent the aromatase in your body fat from converting your hormones into estrogen or you can take medications to balance your insulin and blood sugar. However, you can achieve the same effect naturally by choosing real, whole, organic foods, exercising daily, and maintaining a healthy body weight. As important as it is, insulin imbalance isn’t the only culprit that can lead to breast cancer. Environmental toxins have a major impact as well. The most damaging environmental toxin when it comes to breast cancer is estrogen and substances that mimic it. From birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy to eating meat and drinking flora -- or the good bacteria that live in your gut. These little symbiotic helpers not only strengthen your immune system and help you digest the foods you eat, they also help detoxify the estrogen made in your body after it’s been used. If your flora aren’t in balance, the estrogen your body needs to eliminate gets reabsorbed. This increases your estrogen level and exposes your body to unhealthy estrogen breakdown products. It’s interesting to note that many studies link increased use of antibiotics to an increased risk of breast cancer. This may be because excess antibiotic use kills off the good bacteria in your gut. Now you know some of the main contributing factors to breast cancer. Next let’s review what you can do to balance your estrogen levels, support the flora in your gut. 10 Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer Following these steps will help you limit your risk of breast cancer: 1. Choose whole foods.
      This helps increase your insulin sensitivity and prevents insulin resistance. Follow the recommendations in Dr. Hyman’s book
    for more tips on which foods to choose.
2. Get 3-5 hours of exercise per week.
    This also helps increase your insulin sensitivity and allows you to more easily control your percentage of body fat.
3. Increase your Back to Content Library