Health Alert

What Are You Doing To Prevent Breast Cancer?

How many times do we read something in the paper or see a news item and realize that we’ve been eating something or not eating something or doing something or not doing something that can have a big effect on our health? Happens to me all the time.

That’s why I was so chuffed recently to find out that I’ve been doing several things that could help prevent me from having breast cancer. I watched my mother go through a mastectomy with lymph node resection and it wasn’t something I ever wanted to go through myself, but I must confess that I didn’t give prevention much thought. I guess I thought, like many women, that it’s all a roll of the dice whether we get breast cancer or not.

Well, au contraire to the max, as my daughter says. It turns out that I’m doing several things that might lower my chances of getting breast cancer or give me a better chance of surviving breast cancer if I do develop it. This is a good thing, because, unfortunately, I’m also doing several things that increase my chances of getting it. But, first the good news for me and any of you who are doing these good things.

I drink green tea, take Vitamin D daily, take Black Cohosh for menopausal symptoms and take Omega-3 in addition to eating fish at least twice a week. All of these things are proven to reduce my chances of getting breast cancer. I also eat lots of cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, lightly steamed to preserve their good phytonutrients. I don’t eat much red meat and I try to eat organic produce and naturally raised meat.

Recent studies have shown that all of these things significantly reduce breast cancer risk, so if you’re not doing them, here’s your chance to change your lifestyle and increase your odds of living to a ripe old age. So, what am I doing – and what may you be doing – that ups our chances of developing breast cancer?

Well, I don’t exercise nearly enough. I spend hours everyday in front of my computer, which is packing on the ol’ pounds. Lack of exercise and being overweight are both risk factors for breast and other cancers. Worse, I drink more than one glass of wine at a time.

I don’t drink everyday – more like Friday night and the occasional dinner out, and I don’t drink more than two glasses, but I should stick with one glass at a time if I want to stay on the safe side. I’m also trying to walk down our half-mile long driveway at least a couple times a week to get the mail. I figure that’s a start toward a more extensive walking campaign, but this is complicated by the start of hunting season here in Maine.

Walking is healthy exercise, but not if people are shooting at you, in the mistaken belief that you’re a deer. Nor is it likely that I’ll continue walking when the snow drifts are over my head in a couple of months. So, I guess I’ll have to join the kids in front of the Wii, which is so much fun that I don’t realize that it’s exercise until my aching muscles let me know about it the next day.

With all the pink ribbons flying around lately, thoughts of breast cancer are on our minds, so I thought it might be a good time to review some concrete, practical things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. I’m much more in favor of using natural methods to prevent breast cancer, rather than focusing on chemo and radiation and chemicals to “cure” it. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.


Think Pink? I Don’t Think So. Here’s Why

Do you feel as if you’re drowning in a sea of pink? I do. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, as I’m sure you’re aware. There’s the irony. Everyone is aware of breast cancer, because almost everyone has been affected by it. Who doesn’t know someone who has either died from or survived breast cancer? Who hasn’t seen the ads on TV and all over the Net? You can’t open a Facebook page without someone asking you to “help cure breast cancer” with sales copy that’s festooned with pink ribbons. Who can resist? Buy some wine and cure cancer. What’s not to like?

Everything. I don’t like anything about this stupid “Think Pink” campaign. In the first place, it’s just one more gimmick to sell things to women. I think we have enough of those, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject. In the second place, why is it that none of these folks are talking about preventing breast cancer?  That is truly the “cure” for breast cancer: preventing it in the first place. Why do so many ads tout mammograms to prevent cancer? They don’t prevent anything and may actually cause cancer as you can read in this report. Well, I shouldn’t say that no one is talking about prevention because Breast Cancer Action is. They’re based in SF and if you want real, worthwhile information about ways to prevent breast cancer and what you can do to help convince our legislators to do what needs to be done to prevent breast cancer, go to their web site as soon as you’re done reading this.

Also, you might want to read about this study that talks about a common food that can actually shut down the process that cancer cells use to proliferate. It’s not woo-woo pseudoscience either. It’s from the NIH and after reading it, you may want to add something to your salad or sandwich. It’s not the only food that has an effect on cancer cells either. Things like turmeric, broccoli, ginger, mushrooms and many other foods have been studied and shown to have anti-cancer properties either preventive or after diagnosis. Why is it that none of these stinkin’ Pinkers talk about that? To me, it looks as though they’re portraying women (and the small group of men who get breast cancer) as helpless victims who have no control over whether they get breast cancer or not. Hogwash!

True, there are some factors, genetic and acquired, that make it more likely that you’ll develop breast cancer. I have one of them. I’m the daughter of a woman who took DES (diethylstilbestrol), which makes it more likely that I’ll develop breast cancer. However, I’m also a woman who researches and writes for a living, so I’m aware of other risk factors and also of things I can do to improve my odds. For one thing, I eat organic food whenever possible. I take extra Vitamin D, which has been shown to reduce cancer rates in populations that have a higher intake. I do drink in moderation, but I’ve switched from wine to very low alcohol beer except on rare occasions.

I will not be buying anything pink, because I hate the whole mentality that says that breast cancer is just one of those things that you have to accept if you’re a woman, and then someone will give you chemo and remove your breast and you’ll be “cured”, if you’re lucky. Or, more likely, like my late sister in law, you’ll get brain damage along with the chemo, live a lousy, pain-filled life for a few months or years and then die from a stroke, a heart attack or a recurrence of the cancer somewhere else in your body.

If I do develop cancer, breast cancer or any other type, I’ll carefully review my options with my health care providers, research the heck out of it and then get the best holistic treatment I can find. If that includes allopathic treatment, fine. But I won’t be opting for chemotherapy and I won’t be expecting any of the Pink people to cure me. It’s not in their best interest, because they’re all making a bundle on selling a cure for cancer with the fearmonger approach.

Call me a skeptic, but I can’t help but wonder whether it’s really a coincidence that the same companies that make the big anti-cancer drugs also make some of the pesticides that cause cancer. Then there’s  Monsanto which makes the hormone rGBH that farmers give their cows to increase milk production. RGBH is a known carcinogen and it’s in almost all the cheese produced in America, although it’s banned in Europe and Canada. I haven’t checked, but I’m sure there’s cheese with a pink ribbon on it and rGBH in it selling somewhere at a supermarket near you. You know, it’d be a lot better if they just stopped after the first word in their slogan: Think.