Five Easy Things You Can Do Now to
Help Prevent Breast Cancer
c.2002 Susun S. Weed
author of Breast Cancer?
Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But many women are calling
it Breast Health Awareness Month! Rather than focusing on breast cancer,
we choose to concentrate on keeping our breasts healthy through wise
lifestyle and dietary choices.
The following tips may amaze you, since the actions and foods they
suggest run counter to many alternative views of cancer prevention.
They are supported with strong research, however -- from the lab,
with animals, and in long-term human studies. Thus, each of these
tips has a solid scientific basis, unlike the assertions made by those
intent on selling you their opinions and products.
Embarking on even one of these suggestions will definitely lower your
risk of breast cancer. Using them all is even better. And as a special
treat, I have added three extras. Look for lots more tips for keeping
your breasts healthy in my book Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The
Wise Woman Way, recommended by many oncologists and breast health
specialists including Dr. Susan Love. And please visit my special
breast health website: www.breasthealthbook.com
1. Be more active.
Evidence continues to accumulate that a vigorous lifestyle is one
of the best ways to cut breast cancer risk. A study of 20,624 Norwegian
women found those who exercised or worked out regularly cut their
breast cancer risk by 72%. (NEJM, 5/1/1997)
For breast health I walk every day, take a weekly yoga class, and
do tai chi twice a week.
2. Eat more unrefined seed foods.
All seeds provide phytoestrogens. Women who eat the most phytoestrogenic
foods are four times less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer
than those who eat the least. "No study has shown a degree of
risk reduction similar to that found for phytoestrogens . . ."
Whole grains such as wheat, rice, corn, kasha, millet, and quinoa
are unrefined seed foods. Beans such as lentils, black beans, pinto
beans, lima beans, and chickpeas are unrefined seed foods. Nuts including
peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans are unrefined seed foods. And
edible seeds such as sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin are unrefined
seed foods. Fruits and vegetables that are eaten with their seeds
-- such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi fruit, summer
squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers -- count as unrefined seed foods.
Even seeds used as seasonings count, such as cumin, coriander, caraway,
anise, and dill seeds.
For breast health, I have replaced all refined carbohydrates -- including
white rice and white/unbleached flour products such as pasta, bread,
cookies, crackers, pretzels, bagels, donuts, and cakes -- with whole
3. Eat less vegetable oil; increase animal fat, especially
from dairy products.
"Diets high in corn oil leave animals especially vulnerable to
chemically induced cancers" say researchers. (Science News, 6/24/89;
10/2/99) Frightening as this statement is, it is not true only of
corn oil but of all vegetable (or seed) oils including those made
from soy, sesame, sunflower, cottonseed, flax, and hemp.
If you are dubious about eating more animal fat and dairy products
to reduce breast cancer risk, consider this landmark study reported
in the Archives of Internal Medicine (1/12/1998). To determine if
food affected breast cancer risk, the diets of 61,000 Swedish women
between the ages of 40-76 were followed for four years. The results?
For every 5 grams (about a teaspoonful) of vegetable oil consumed
per day, breast cancer risk increased by 70%. In contrast, for each
10 grams of fat from meat and dairy products in the daily diet, breast
cancer risk was decreased by 55%.
Another study, begun in the early 1970s, followed 4000 Finnish women's
diets for 25 years. Results recently released found that those who
"drank the most milk had only half the breast cancer risk of
those who drank the least."
American researchers agree. According to a report in International
Journal of Cancer (2001), women who drank milk as children and continued
drinking it as adults had half the rate of breast cancer of non-milk
drinkers. (Yes, I do buy organic milk, but the studies used regular
Why? Galactose, the primary sugar in milk, slows ovarian production
of estradiol, a cancer-promoting hormone. Additionally, milk is rich
in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fat known to suppress brest tumors
For breast health I use yogurt, cheese, milk, butter, and olive oil
daily, and eat meat occassionally. Remember that olive oil is pressed
from a fruit, not a seed. Women whose diets are high in olive oil,
and who eat meat and dairy products regularly, have the lowest rates
of breast cancer in the world. (Journal of the National Cancer Institute,
4. Eat less tofu and soy beverage; eat more miso and tamari.
While it is true that if you begin eating soy foods as a child and
continue throughout puberty the breast tissues you create during your
adolescense will be highly resistant to cancer until after menopause.
However, if you begin eating unfermented soy (tofu, soy milk, and
the like) after puberty, your risk of breast cancer increases. (Science
The active ingredient in soy -- isoflavone -- when given to breast
cancer cells in petri dishes causes them to grow rapidly. (Extracts
of dong quai and licorice have a similar effect.)
Miso and tamari -- fermented soy foods -- are the exceptions. Both
are strongly cancer preventative, no matter when you start eating
them. Animals studies have found both miso and tamari highly effective
in preventing cancer, even in mice genetically programmed to get breast
cancer. And the more you eat, the more you lower your risk of cancer.
For breast health, I use miso and/or tamari every day. I occassionally
eat tofu or edemame. I drink no soy milk, and eat no other soy products
of any kind.
5. Eat foods rich in antioxidants; avoid supplements of vitamins
C and E.
A diet that contains plenty of foods rich in antioxidants definitely
lowers breast cancer risk. But supplements seem to do the opposite.
Doctors in Stockholm observed that, among breast cancer patients,
treatment failures were higher for women taking vitamin E supplements
-- and the failure rate increased with dose. Studying this effect,
researchers found that the anticancer benefits of fish oils "disappeared
when [we] gave . . . antioxidant vitamins. In fact, when mice with
breast cancer were given vitamin E supplements "the more we gave
them, the bigger their tumors grew." The authors conclude that
vitamin E supplements "preferentially protect a cancer and even
aid its spread." (Science News, 4/29/1995 and 7/15/1995)
Supplements of vitamin C (synthetic ascorbic acid) are poorly used
by body tissues. But cancer cells seem to thrive on it. (Cancer Research,
9/15/1999) One new "chemotherapy" links a lethal form of
zinc to an ascorbic acid molecule; when the cancer eats the ascorbic
acid, the zinc is set free to kill the cancer cell.
For breast health I eat 5-7 servings of dark green and bright red/orange
foods daily .
Besides being active, choosing a diet high in phytoestrogens, eating
one or more servings of dairy products daily, using miso and tamari
regularly, and avoiding vitamin supplements, here are three more things
you can do to help prevent breast cancer:
6. Sleep in the dark.
Exposure to light at night increases the risk of breast cancer. The
Journal of the National Cancer Institute (8/17/2001) reports that
chronic suppression of melatonin -- an anti-cancer hormone made only
in the dark -- increases breast cancer risk by at least 36%.
For breast health be certain there is no light (except from the moon)
in the room where you sleep. Not even a night light. Not the light
from a clock. Not the little lights on electronics.
7. Drink red clover blossom infusion.
Red clover is a potent anticancer herb. It contains ten times more
phytoestrogens than soy, and in a more complete form. I have seen
it clear in situ cancers and precancerous polyps hundreds of times.
Since many breast cancers take 7-10 years to become big enough to
be seen on a mammogram, I drink a quart of red clover infusion every
week and skip the mammogram.
To prepare the infusion: place one ounce, by weight (about a cup by
volune), of dried red clover in a quart canning jar. Fill the jar
to the top with boiling water and lid tightly. Let steep for four
hours or overnight. Strain and drink. Refrigerate excess and drink
within 24-36 hours.
For breast health, I drink red clover infusion regularly.
8. Eat seaweed as a vegetable.
If the long-lived and cancer-free Japanese have a secret, it is seaweed,
not soy. A sprinkling of kelp as a seasoning is nice, and so are nori
rolls -- but neither does much to prevent cancer. For that we must
eat seaweed as a vegetable -- at least a half-cup serving per week.
Wakame, kombu, kelp, and alaria are especially effective, but sea
palm fronds, hijiki, nori, and dulse may be used on occassion.
There is a rich variety of seaweeds available in Chinese grocery stores,
health food stores, and by mail. Seaweed recipes are available in
many books (including my herbal Healing Wise).
These eight tips -- five easy ones and three more difficult ones
-- will vastly increase your chances of living to be a wild, wise
old woman with healthy breasts. That's the Wise Woman Way the world
here to read more articles by Susun Weed
Cancer? Breast Health the Wise Woman Way
by Susun S. Weed
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