January 30, 2012

Fighting the Scary Odds of Breast Cancer!

Jan 30
Breast cancer is at highly scary levels in North America yet people that live in Asia have a very low incidence of this disease. However, studies indicate that if an Asian woman moves to North America and adopts the American diet and lifestyle, her risk wil match that of an American woman’s within one generation. Stop and think about that for a minute. A woman can go from low risk to high risk of a deadly disease simply by adopting the American diet and lifestyle. Yet, we continue to hear that we don’t know what might be responsible for our high cancer rates. It’s disheartening to think that people simply don’t have the right information to help themselves minimize their risks of such a serious disease. Let’s get to the root of the equation. What’s the difference between the Asian lifestyle & diet and the American lifestyle & diet? The health factor! The Asian lifestyle/diet is healthy whereas the American lifestyle/diet is unhealthy! I’m not trying to dumb it down but it really can be as simple as that. We as a society need to take control of our health once again. It’s easy to say that it’s the luck of the draw and you can’t do anything about it but that’s just untrue. Only by regaining control can you minimize your risk of deadly disease and chronic illness. In the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer in 2009, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that roughly 40 percent of breast cancer cases could be prevented by making lifestyle changes.That’s huge! I just wish more people were aware of these sorts of stats instead of hopelessly believing that it’s all out of their hands! It’s not and it’s time to take action. These simple but unequivocably crucial steps can help to greatly reduce your chances of this far too common disease.
  • Optimize your Vitamin D Levels! I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, this vitamin is one of the body’s best defences against cancer. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that influences almost every cell in the human body. The liver, kidney, and other tissues convert vitamin D into calcitriol, which is basically the activated version of vitamin D. The body’s organs then use this to repair damage, including that from cancer cells. In fact, vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and stimulate cancer cell death. In fact, a 2007 study done by the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego found that roughly 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal could be prevented each year if vitamin D3 levels among populations worldwide were increased. Trust me when I say that you want lots of this vitamin in your body! It’s simply one of your best bets in minimizing your risk of breast cancer.
  • Control Your Insulin Levels! When we look at people who live the longest, it’s often hard to come up with why they live so long and others don’t. However, what you will find in most cases is that these rare exceptions all have relatively low blood sugar levels and low insulin levels! In much the same vein, research shows that diets high in processed foods and carbohydrates (which increase insulin levels) greatly increase your chance of cancer. Eliminating grains and sugars from your diet will go a long way toward preventing cancer. Try to replace these with vegetables as much as possible. I have patients who tell me that it’s too hard to give up grains and sugars but I have to ask them, is the alternative any easier? It’s your life and your health so make the choice you want but just be prepared for the consequences.
  • Introduce Exercise into your Life! Exercise is critical for so many reasons. To start with, it is crucial to maintain a healthy weight for women (as well as men). A healthy body mass index is anywhere from 18.5 but no greater than 25. Research shows us that women closer to the lower end of this healthy body mass index have the most protection against breast cancer. Being overweight will drastically increase your risk of cancer. This may be partially due to the fact that estrogen, a hormone produced in fat tissue, may be a trigger for breast cancer. It is also important to note that exercise helps to optimize our insulin receptors, which once again helps lower the risk of breast cancer. Anywhere from five to eight hours of exercise a week is ideal and it’s important that it’s a combination of cardio & strength-training as opposed to just cardio alone.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Smoking! According to recent studies, the more alcohol you drink  and the more you smoke, the higher your chances of many different types of cancer including breast cancer. It’s important to keep in mind that alcohol is a neurotoxin that can poison your brain as well as disrupt your hormonal balance. Just as importantly, alcohol increase your insulin levels (back to the insulin again!). Smoking is well known to cause cancer due to the carcinogens inhaled as a result of this habit. In fact, smokers will die an average of 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers. For optimal health and to truly minimize the risk of cancer, it’s best to completely avoid both alcohol and smoking.
These are some simple and easy tips that if followed, can help to drastically minimize your risk of breast cancer. These recommendations don’t cost you anything and best of all, they brings the power back into your own hands. I understand that cancer can be a scary disease so instead of ignoring it, work to change your life to minimize its threat. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.