The Ministries of our Church
Berean Health & Temperance
Breast Cancer Awareness
By Ed Cabil, Breast Cancer Awareness
This four-part series on Breast Cancer will be centered around what is standard and what is non-standard when it comes to education and treatment of Breast Cancer!
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer where cells in the breast divide and grow without normal control. Between 50 and 75 percent of breast cancers begin in the ducts, 10 to 15 percent begin in the lobules and a few begin in other breast tissues. Tumors in the breast tend to grow slowly. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for as long as 10 years. However, some tumors are aggressive and grow much more rapidly.
The basic treatment choices for breast cancer are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy, not necessarily in that order. Local treatments such as breast surgery and radiation therapy are focused on the breast itself to remove or destroy the cancer cells confined to the breast. Systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy aim to destroy the cancer cells that may have spread throughout the body.
What Causes Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is clearly a terrifying disease. Out of every nine women in America, at least one will fall victim to its toll. Despite massive research and immense funding, scientists are often at odds regarding its possible causes. At the heart of the confusion and controversy is the role of a high-fat diet. On the one hand, extensive laboratory research and human epidemiological studies often link high-fat diets to higher rates of breast cancer. On the other hand, several prominent medical studies have shown little or no relationship between fat intake and breast cancer. Lacking conclusive evidence, most nutritional experts play it safe by suggesting that the most effective way to reduce breast cancer is to reduce overall fat intake. What Dr. T. Collins Campbell has found from the China Project is that such advice is not sufficient. The fact that significantly lower breast cancer rates exist throughout China is not simply due to low-fat diets but also because these diets are largely plantbased.
Let's look at the findings: In our survey we found that girls who consumed diets that were limited in plant foods, yet were high in animal foods that increased growth rates, reached menarche at an early age. When girls are pushed early to menarche by what they eat, their blood levels of estrogen and certain other hormones reach unusually high levels. These levels will then remain high as long as no dietary change is made. What is the problem? Higher levels of female hormones are known to be associated with higher breast cancer risk.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer of women and the second most common cause of cancer death in women. In the United States, one in nine women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over a lifetime.
The development of breast cancer has been associated with increased levels of estrogens– female sex hormones–in the body. These states include long–term use of menopausal hormone “replacement” therapy and uninterrupted menstrual cycles, including early onset of menstrual periods or late onset of menopause. Food choices and body fat accumulation can also affect the amount of estrogen in a womanʼs bloodstream.
Symptoms may include a breast lump; thickening, dimpling, or redness of the skin of the breast; or bloody nipple discharge. Breast pain or tenderness is usually not associated with cancer. In many cases, the only sign of disease is an abnormal mammogram.
Breast cancer does occur in men, although it is relatively rare. For men, the incidence is about 1 percent of the rate in women. There is an 85 percent five–year survival rate. Early diagnosis and treatment is important because breast cancers can become invasive and spread throughout the body.
Age: Incidence increases with age.
Family history: Having a first–degree relative with breast cancer increases the risk.
Genetics: Researchers have discovered two genes, named BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are related to breast cancer. Mutations of these genes significantly increase the risk of cancer.
Increased estrogen states: These include long–term use of menopausal hormone “replacement” therapy, uninterrupted menstrual cycles (including early onset of menstrual periods, late onset of menopause, older age at first birth, and nulliparity (having never given birth). In a clinical trial with 7,705 women, those with the highest blood estrogen levels had double the risk for invasive breast cancer.
Treatment: Surgery to remove the breast cancer is the preferred therapy. The surgical options include lumpectomy plus radiation therapy, or mastectomy. The choice of surgical therapy often presents difficulties for doctors and patients. Lumpectomy followed by radiation may be considered in the case of smaller tumors and/ or in women with larger breasts where a good cosmetic result is anticipated. Mastectomy virtually eliminates the risk of local recurrence, but may result in poorer cosmetic results. Chemotherapy is indicated for most patients in addition to surgery.
Breast cancers are also evaluated based on whether they contain estrogen or progesterone hormone receptors. Women with hormone–positive cancers are treated with long–term medications (e.g., tamoxifen) in addition to surgery and/or chemotherapy.
Further, in high–risk women without breast cancer, tamoxifen taken for five years decreases the risk of developing breast cancer by 50 percent or more.
Nutritional Considerations: A plant–based diet: Researchers have long noted a low incidence of breast cancer in countries where traditional diets are based on plant foods. In contrast, a striking increase in breast cancer incidence has been noted in migrants who abandon traditional diets (e.g., rice, vegetables, and soy foods) and adopt Western–type diets high in meat, dairy products, and fat.
Part of this risk may be related to eating fiber–depleted, fatty foods that increase blood levels of estrogen or to an increase in estrogen production from fat cells. High–fiber foods help to remove excess estrogens from the body in the same way that these foods remove cholesterol. Here are some tips for starting a plant-based diet.
Maintenance of a healthy body weight: Large studies, including the Womenʼs Health Initiative, indicate that breast cancer risk increases significantly with overweight and obesity. Lower body weight also appears to improve the prognosis in patients with breast cancer. Overweight patients with breast cancer were shown to have a shortened life expectancy and greater risk of cancer recurrence after treatment.
The same low–fat, plant based diet that reduces fat intake and increases fiber will also help reduce body weight.
Reduced intake of saturated fat and meat: The high intake of saturated fat and meat may be a part of the reason that breast cancer is much more common in areas where Western diets prevail.
In the Nurses’ Health II Study, premenopausal women who ate the most fat had a slightly increased risk for breast cancer. This risk was attributed mainly to the intake of red meat and high–fat dairy products.
Lower fat diets may also improve survival in patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer. A Japanese study showed increased death rates when high–fat foods (particularly butter and margarine, cheese, ham, sausage, and dairy products) are consumed. Other studies have suggested that patients who eat the least fat when they are diagnosed have a better prognosis. Further, results from a large randomized clinical trial, the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study, showed that postmenopausal women who ate a low–fat diet were less likely to develop a recurrence of breast cancer, compared with those who ate a standard diet.
Increased fiber intake: A large study of postmenopausal women found that women who ate the most fiber had the lowest risk. And the risk was even lower among women who ate the least fat. High–fiber, low–fat diets also reduce serum estrogen, which is known to be associated with breast cancer risk .
With the addition of exercise, this type of diet is known to help keep blood glucose levels within normal limits and to lower the risk for adult–onset diabetes, both of which have been related to increased breast cancer risk.
Fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes (including soy products) are particularly good sources of fiber. Studies show that women who eat more fruits and vegetables may have greater long–term survival from breast cancer, possibly because of the combinations of carotenoids, folate, and phytochemicals present in these foods.
When the intake of these foods begins before or during adolescence, the healthy effects are especially prominent.
Reduced or eliminated alcohol intake: Alcohol intake is associated with an increase in the incidence of breast cancer. People who had two (approximately 30g of alcohol) or more drinks per day had a 40 percent increased risk compared with nondrinkers. Even one drink daily increases oneʼs risk by up to 10 percent.
Increased intake of folic acid: Eating foods high in folate may help lower the risk for breast cancer, especially in women who consume alcohol. Foods that contain folic acid (green leafy vegetables, legumes, and oranges) are likely to be preferable to folate supplements, due to their fiber, beta–carotene, vitamin C, and phytochemical content, all of which may have important roles in reduction of breast cancer and cancer risk in general.
How To Prevent Breast Cancer
Wonder how to prevent breast cancer, having heard of and seen its devastating effects on the lives of women around you? Science tells those who are willing to listen that making changes to their diet are so far the best ways to prevent breast cancer.
"Roughly half a million Americans this year will go to the doctor's office and be told that they have cancer of the breast, prostate or large bowel." Dr. Colin T. Campbell,PhD. The China Study.
This is not some faceless half a million. It could be your mom, sister, friend, yourself... I’ve read one woman’s posting on an Internet forum, where she described feeling angry, scared and powerless after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 27. She said she believed it would never happen to her. The reader responses were astounding: "Get real, almost every one of us will get cancer, so you should have been prepared for this," wrote one. These were cancer survivors giving their best advice to the novice.
They obviously did not know that one can “prepare oneself” for life without cancer by altering one's menu. Moreover, your chances of avoiding diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and osteoporosis are greatly influenced by what you choose to eat for lunch, breakfast and dinner. The readers were not familiar with the mountains of scientific evidence of prevention of breast, colon and other cancers through nutrition. They did not see documented cases of breast cancer cure and did not consider nutrition as one of the treatments for breast cancer.
Risk Factors Of Breast Cancer
Dr. Campbell points out that there are at least four important risk factors of breast cancer that are affected by nutrition. One is high blood cholesterol. Three others are caused by “excess amount of female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone.” These risk factors are: early arrival of first menstrual period, late arrival of menopause, and high levels of female hormones in the blood. Increased levels of female hormones lead to increased risks of breast cancer.
How To Prevent Breast Cancer By Controlling Estrogen Levels
Dr. Campbell finds the close connection between breast cancer and estrogen exposure particularly important because, "diet plays a major role in establishing estrogen exposure."
Diets low in animal foods reduce female hormones and cholesterol levels in the blood. They also delay arrival of menstruation and lower the age of menopause.
This empowers us women to reduce the risk of breast cancer by taking control of our estrogen levels. We can do it by reducing or avoiding animal protein based foods and consuming more plants. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)