What Caused a Dramatic Drop in Breast Cancer
What Caused a Dramatic Drop in Breast Cancer …
Plus Top 11 Things You Can do to Lower Your Risk Even More …
© Health Realizations, Inc.
Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. women, and the second leading cause of cancer death. A woman has just under a one in eight chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time during her life, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. women (except for skin cancer), but rates fell steeply in the beginning of the 21st century. Keep reading to find out why …
In 2009, over 192,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer, and over 62,000 cases of carcinoma in situ (an early form of breast cancer) were diagnosed in women, while over 40,000 died from the disease.
For decades, breast cancer rates continued to increase … until around 1999. Although breast cancer remains a common cancer, rates have been decreasing about 2 percent a year from 1999 to 2006. What caused this deceleration?
Why Did Breast Cancer Rates Drop?
Between 1990 and 2005, there was a 37 percent drop in breast cancer deaths among women, according to a study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The steep drop came after increasing numbers of women stopped using synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which was found to increase women’s risk of breast cancer.
The dangers of HRT first came out due to the government-funded Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study. Launched in 1991, the study was intended to test the effects of postmenopausal hormone therapy and the risk of diseases; however it was stopped early when the serious risks came to light.
Compared to women taking a placebo, those who took estrogen plus progestin HRT had an:
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Increased risk of stroke
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Increased risk of dementia
The findings were widely publicized and word spread fast to many women currently taking the synthetic hormones. Even the FDA released a statement pointing out that the risks of HRT exceeded the benefits:
“On May 31, 2002, the WHI study of conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg/day, plus medroxyprogesterone acetate 2.5 mg/day in postmenopausal women was stopped after a mean of 5.2 years of follow-up because the test statistic for invasive breast cancer exceeded the stopping boundary for this adverse effect and the global index statistic supported risks exceeding benefits.”
Prior to 2002, about 30 percent of women took HRT, often after being reassured by their doctors that the therapy would not only relieve their menopause symptoms but also help prevent heart disease.
Fortunately, the number of women using HRT dropped by half when the study results came out showing the therapy not only significantly increased the risk of breast cancer, but heart disease, stroke, blood clots and dementia as well.
In 2003, just one year after millions of women stopped HRT, breast cancer rates had already fallen by 7 percent – which amounted to about 14,000 fewer cases of breast cancer that year alone!
Can You Influence Your Breast Cancer Risk?
There is a misconception that family history or your genes can “cause” you to get breast cancer. In reality, approximately 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Further, only about 5% of breast cancer cases are due to abnormal genes. A mutated BRCA gene does not necessarily mean you will develop breast cancer, as it is only one of a number of risk factors and your lifestyle can influence the expression of your genes.
There are actually many different ways to help prevent and reduce the risk of breast cancer, and one of the most important is maintaining a healthy weight. There's a clear link between obesity -- weighing more than is appropriate for your age and height -- and breast cancer. The association is stronger if you gain the weight later in life, particularly after menopause, yet at any age if you have more fat tissue, your body will produce more estrogen, which is known to fuel breast cancer.
Obese women have a 60 percent greater chance of developing cancer than women of normal weight, and this is one reason why researchers believe up to one-third of breast cancer cases could be prevented if women ate less and exercised more.
11 Top Tips for Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk
#11: Limit alcohol
Drinking alcohol is strongly linked to breast cancer. The type of alcohol consumed -- wine, beer or mixed drinks -- seems to make no difference. To help protect against breast cancer, limit the amount of alcohol you drink to less than one drink a day or avoid alcohol completely.
#10: Maintain a healthy weight
Again, obese women have a 60 percent greater chance of developing cancer than women of normal weight, so it’s important to arrange your lifestyle in a way that will help you to eat healthier and exercise often.
Emerging research is highlighting vitamin D as a key player in breast cancer prevention. Ask your doctor for a blood test to make sure your levels are in the healthy range.
#9: Make sure you have enough vitamin D
Recent research by JoEllen Welsh of the State University of New York at Albany found that when human breast cancer cells were treated with vitamin D, half died within days. Further, when mice injected with breast cancer cells were treated with vitamin D, tumors shrank by more than 50 percent, and some disappeared entirely within weeks.
A blood test from your doctor, called the 25-hydroxyvitamin D, can determine whether your vitamin D levels are high enough, but you should know that typical laboratory reference ranges may indicate a lower level of vitamin D as “healthy,” when newer research has shown the minimal acceptable level for vitamin D to be 50 ng/ml.
If your levels are low, safe sun exposure or supplementation with vitamin D3 can get you where you need to be.
#8: Avoid long-term hormone therapy
Long-term use of synthetic HRT will increase your breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia risk, without conferring any clear benefits. So what can you do to deal with your hot flashes? Many experts recommend natural, biodentical hormones as a safe alternative to synthetic varieties.
#7: Eat a healthy diet, with plenty of fruits, veggies and raw foods
Not only do certain cooking methods generate cancer-causing substances, but raw foods are rich in health-boosting enzymes that are destroyed by cooking. Enzymes help you to assimilate and digest nutrients, produce and regulate hormones, and renew and repair your cells, among countless other options.
Further, it’s important to focus your diet on fresh whole foods, instead of processed fast-foods, as a study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Mile Markers, and Prevention found that refined carbohydrates like white flour, sugar and high fructose corn syrup are linked to cancer. The study of more than 1,800 women in Mexico found that those who got 57 percent or more of their total energy intake from refined carbohydrates had a 220 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who ate more balanced diets.
For those of you interested in trying out some delicious, enzyme-rich raw food recipes, the book "Alive in 5:" Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes is highly recommended. Even those who are new to raw foods will enjoy the simple recipes (most can be prepared in five minutes!) for lasagna, spaghetti marinara, stuffed mushrooms, broccoli in cheese sauce, apple pie and more.
For more information on how your diet influences your health, be sure to read The China Study; it’s one of the most comprehensive looks at how your diet impacts your health. As its research bore out, “a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness.”
#6: Stay physically active
The Nurses’ Health Study found that moderate exercise of one or more hours a day reduced women’s colon cancer risk by 30 percent, compared to women who exercised less, and there are likely body-wide reductions in cancer risk as well.
“Being active helps reduce your cancer risk by helping with weight control, and can also reduce your risk by influencing hormone levels and your immune system,” ACS reports.
No matter what your age, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Try to include weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging or dancing, along with exercises to work your core, heart and mind.
#5: Eat foods high in fiber
Try to increase the amount of fiber you eat to between 20 and 30 grams daily -- about twice that in an average American diet. Among its many health benefits, fiber may help reduce the amount of circulating estrogen in your body. Foods high in fiber include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
#4: Emphasize olive oil
A Northwestern University study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, found that oleic acid -- the main component of olive oil -- inhibited activity levels of the Her-2/neu gene. This gene is thought to trigger breast cancer and is found in over one-fifth of breast cancer patients. The gene is associated with highly aggressive tumors and poor prognosis, but eating olive oil may help suppress the gene.
#3: Avoid exposure to pesticides
The molecular structure of some pesticides closely resembles that of estrogen. This means they may attach to receptor sites in your body. Although studies have not found a definite link between most pesticides and breast cancer, it is known that women with elevated levels of pesticides in their breast tissue have a greater breast cancer risk.
Further, scientists are also investigating a number of potential preventive therapies for breast cancer, including:
Natural or synthetic forms of vitamin A (retinoids) may have the ability to destroy or inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Unlike other experimental therapies, retinoids may be effective in premenopausal women and in those whose tumors aren't estrogen positive. Research is ongoing.
Flaxseeds are high in lignans, naturally occurring compounds that lowers circulating estrogens in your body. Flaxseeds appear to decrease estrogen production -- acting much like the drug Tamoxifen does -- which may inhibit the growth of breast cancer tumors. Lignans are also antioxidants with weak estrogen-like characteristics. These characteristics may be the mechanism by which flaxseeds works to decrease hot flashes. Further research should clarify the connection.
--Physicist Dr. Robert C. Beck
American Cancer Society