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Breast Cancer Prevention

Every October is observed as Breast Cancer Prevention Month. Breast cancer is one of the most common, if not the most common, malignancy that strikes women from the second decade of life and onwards.

With proper information, breast cancer can be detected at an earlier stage and hence treated. Knowledge, information and awareness are needed to make an impact on the incidence of this dreaded disease. In the last two years, at the least, I have come across women who have been diagnosed, treated and are being followed up after a bout of breast malignancy. This raw information will now be used to educate our women in the community on how to combat this malignancy.

While much is known about breast cancer - causation, clinical behavior, treatment and outcome - very little has been done about its prevention. Or is there really any basis to even claim that this malady can be prevented? Out of the volume of research and clinical work being done intentionally on this dreaded disease in the last three decades, several trends and patterns have emerged.

First, breast cancer can be cured if detected early. This is why regular Breast Self-Examination (SSE) and mammography (x-ray screening on the breast) are very important. The practice of BSE should be disseminated. A mammogram should be done at age 50 and repeated every two or three years thereafter. The first examination provides the baseline information. It may need to be done for younger women (at age 40 and above), especially if there's a positive family history of breast cancer or breast lumps, or if it's difficult to examine the breasts (heavyset families).

Second, nutrition is emerging as a strong factor that can alter the balance and tilt it towards the prevention of cancer, especially breast cancer. While much has been said about early detection, prevention has not been discussed much. Consider that no matter how early detection is achieved, cancer cells have already taken hold in the

Fortunately, a lot more is known about the role of diet in the evolution of diseases. Mainstream medicine evaluates outcome of treatment with a process known as “evidence-based medicine.” As a process, it entails long lag time and huge amounts of expenditures before the procedures and drugs can be made standard. Yet, much can be accomplished by focusing on diet to achieve some of the objectives of cancer prevention.

For breast cancer, the main pathway to its development is the long term unopposed action of estrogen. Estrogen is one of two female hormones that are vital to reproductive health (the other is progesterone) and yet it is excessive estrogen in estradiol form that attaches to the estrogen receptors in the breast cells and triggers excessive ceil growth. Other forms of estrogen (the weak ones) protect against breast cancer by competing with estradiol on the breast receptors.

To ensure all these, the following recommendations are considered current and accepted:

1. Change in diet - a deliberate step towards lowering circulating estradiol by natural means is to cut down on animal fat, and to increase intake of plant fibers from fruits and vegetables. Lower incidence of breast cancer in Asia (China, Japan, and Singapore) can be traced to high fiber intake and a stable diet rich in fish and plant protein (soy).

2. Lower body fat - Excess body fats work as an enormous estrogen factory. The more and bigger the fat cells, the more estrogen they produce. Remember the diction: lean means well. This applies to breast cancer prevention as well.

3. Intake of supplements - Many supplements are in the market. To date there are a few that have proven their effectiveness:

a. Omega-3 Fatty Acids - These are commonly known as fish oils. Two grams a day is adequate. If you cannot stand fishy burp and prefer instead the real stuff, eat deep sea fish like tuna, marlin and fresh water salmon.

b. Flaxseed - This is the richest known plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and the richest source of weak estrogen.

c. Soya - This humble plant product has produced a lot of quantifiable benefits in health promotion and disease prevention. Most authorities recommend the equivalent of 25-30 grams. No benefit is derived from soya oil.

d. Moderate intake of Omega-9 oil - This is the beneficial content of olive oil. Omega-9 is formed in monounsaturated oil.

e. Cruciferous vegetables - These are mainly broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. The secret ingredient is a substance known as indole-3-carbinal. It contributes to breast cancer protein by increasing the production of weak estrogen (“good” estrogen).

Cancer | Cancer Home Treatment | Diet


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