Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer amongst North American females. It is thought to be caused by a multitude of factors, many of which are in your control. In fact only 5% to 10% of all breast cancer cases are considered hereditary, which means that lifestyle choices are likely to have a large impact on your breast cancer risk factor.
Reduce Your Environmental Estrogen Exposure
Estrogen is a hormone that is made by the ovaries. It is responsible for sexual development and required for the proper functioning of the female sex organs. It is also responsible for normal breast development and it stimulates breast cell division. Researchers believe that high estrogen levels can vastly increase a woman’s likelihood for developing breast cancer.
There are also environmental estrogens, which are found in plants and certain chemicals. Your body does not distinguish between human estrogen and environmental estrogen. Over-exposure to environmental estrogens is thus problematic because it increases your body’s overall estrogen levels. According to the Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research, lab studies have found that exposure to certain environmental contaminants such as insecticides and the herbicide atrazine, causes the cells to make more of the 16a-OHE estrogen, which is the type of estrogen most often correlated with breast cancer risk.
Although it is not possible to completely avoid environmental estrogen, there are steps you can take to reduce your overall exposure. The plastic in water bottles and food storage containers contain estrogens and you should switch to glass or ceramic containers where possible. Also, never heat a plastic container in the microwave because that will encourage the release of the estrogen chemicals into your food. Additional environmental estrogen’s to try and avoid include pesticides, food preservatives, BHA, BHT, the food dye Red #3 and formaldehyde.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
According to the National Cancer Institute, being overweight increases your breast cancer risk factors. Although your ovaries stop producing estrogen after menopause, excess estrogen can remain in your fat cells. Therefore, the more fat you have, the higher the circulating estrogen will be in your body post menopause.
Exercise not only helps to maintain a healthy body weight, it also helps to regulate hormone levels, making it doubly beneficial when it comes to lowering breast cancer risk. In order to effectively lower your risk via exercise, it is recommended that you partake in vigorous activities such as running, fast jogging, competitive sports, aerobics, bicycling on hills or fast dancing. The Breast Cancer Research Institute conducted a study on over 32,000 women and found that these types of activities were the most effective when it comes to lowering breast cancer risk. Finally, aim to exercise for four hours or more per week, because that may also decrease circulating hormone levels.
Modify Your Diet
Consume a whole foods based diet high in fruits and vegetables, seeds, legumes, and lean proteins. You should also lower your intake of saturated fats and eliminate all processed foods, trans-fats, fried and greasy foods, sugar and salt.
Many studies have also found a correlation between alcohol consumption and breast cancer–something to consider before you pour your next glass of wine. In addition, The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN), recommends consuming two servings a week of salmon, mackerel, tuna, haddock or other cold water fish, as well as eating garlic and onions regularly. Brassica vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are also beneficial. In fact, studies show that consuming just two servings of brassica vegetables per week can lower your breast cancer risk by 20% to 40%. The regular consumption of soy based products such as soymilk, tofu, miso, tempeh and soy nuts is also helpful in the breast cancer fight. These foods have phytoestrogens, which are food-based estrogens that help to reduce and eliminate excess circulating estrogen from your body, something also said to cut the breast cancer risk considerably.
Fiber is also important, because it not only encourages regular elimination, it also binds to, and removes excess endogenous hormones in your body. CSNN recommends combing approximately 5 grams of fiber 3 times per day, for a total of 15 grams daily. Finally, choose organic foods when possible, because as mentioned earlier, the pesticides used in conventionally grown foods are toxic and can increase breast cancer risk.