Nutrition Impacts on Breast Cancer

One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer (252,000+ women this year) as stated by the American Cancer Society . I’m sure you know someone  who had or has been diagnosed with this terrible disease. I lost a very good friend to breast cancer two years ago and know too many others who have been diagnosed at some point of their lives. Approximately 41,000 will die this year in the U.S. from breast cancer.

Cancer continues to be the second leading cause of death in the U.S. only trailing heart disease via the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. I lost my dad to prostate cancer in 1994 and just found out today someone else I know is losing their fight to cancer. When I lost my mom to several health factors in 2013 it was one of the triggers for me to educate myself about health and I quickly realized I didn’t know much at all. I determined I had to take full control of where I was headed.

There are many things working against us in terms of living healthy but we can take action and ownership to greatly reduce our chances of falling prey to one of these leading causes of death. Since I began educating myself to live a healthier lifestyle there have been consistent themes that rise to the top and one of them is the impact of consuming animal products and its relation to cancer in a most horrific way. With October being recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month I thought I’d share a few things I have uncovered.

Leading Causes

Breast Cancer is a hormone related cancer. The higher the level of estrogen level in a person results in a greater risk of breast cancer. Drinking cow’s milk is the number one source (80%) of consuming estrogen outside the body. In essence you are drinking the hormones of the cow.

Dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, etc.) are very high in saturated fat. In a study Dr. Neal Barnard references on his podcast and his book, The Cheese Trap (pg 62), women diagnosed with breast cancer who consumed more than one serving a day of high fat dairy products had a 49% higher risk of dying of their breast cancer vs. women who avoided dairy. He further notes if you mix estrogen and breast cancer cells in a test tube they grow. Higher body fat also correlates to greater chances of developing cancer.

In addition to dairy we can add meat into the mix. There are numerous studies tying meat consumption to breast cancer. One study Dr. Michael Greger references in his book, How Not to Die (pg 190-191), is the 2007 study of Long Island women that found older women consuming the most meat over their lifetimes were found to have 47 percent increased odds of breast cancer. Those with high meat intake who also had low fruit and vegetable intake had 74 percent higher odds.

Things we can do to fight breast cancer

There seems to be several things we can do under our control to reduce our risk of attracting breast cancer, stopping the growth of breast cancer, and reversing it all together. One of the misconceptions I have found with many of the leading causes of death is the lack of correlation of illness to genetics. In most research I have read it is estimated that this is only attributing to 5-10% increased risk of developing a chronic illness. The more powerful attributions are tied to what we put in our mouth. As I described above, animal products are leading the charge with breast cancer. Geography doesn’t have anything to do with it either.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, quoted in this article on the documentary Forks Over Knives stated, “I was chairman of the breast cancer task force at the Cleveland Clinic, when it became apparent that no matter how many women on whom I did breast surgery, I was doing absolutely nothing for the next unsuspecting victim,” he says. “That led to global research on my part.”

He found that breast cancer in Kenya, where women didn’t eat meat or dairy, was 30 to 40 times less frequent than in the United States. Breast cancer in rural Japan in the 1950s was also rare, “but as soon as Japanese women would migrate [to the United States], by the second and third generation, they’d have the same rate of breast cancer as their Caucasian counterparts.”

There seems to be confusion on soy as well. Dr. Neal Barnard, again in his book, The Cheese Trap (pg 66), noted that in 2008, researchers examined the relationship between soy products and breast cancer, combining the results of eight other studies for those women consuming the most soy were 29 percent less likely to develop breast cancer compared with women who neglected soy products. In 2014 he also referenced results of 35 studies that demonstrated soy having a preventive effect, cutting breast cancer risk by 41 percent.

Fiber

Fiber, good for so many things, fights against breast cancer as well. Dr. Michael Greger shares research he uncovered in his book, How Not to Die (pg 189), where there was a 14 percent lower risk of breast cancer for every 20 grams of fiber intake per day. He also noted the relationship between more fiber and less breast cancer may not be a straight line though as the risk may not significantly fall until at least 25 grams of fiber is reached.

Plant-Based Lifestyle

The examples above point to the power of eating more plant-based foods and eliminating animal products on breast cancer risk. One last powerful research to share on the power of our own blood fighting cancer progression.

Dr. Michael Greger, in this video via nutritionfacts.org, shares the following findings on the blood in our body fighting cancer cells:

  • People on a Standard American Diet (SAD) has blood that will on its own fight off cancer growth by 9 percent (our body’s own healing process)
  • People on a Plant-Based Diet has blood that will on its own fight off cancer growth by 70 percent. That is eight times the power of our own body fighting off cancer cells!!!

Dr. Michael Greger has a great quote to cap this off and is one of Keith Crouse’s favorites – “What kind of blood do we want in our body? Do we want blood that just rolls over when new cancer cells pop up or do we want blood circulating to every nook and cranny in our body with the power to slow down and stop it?!?!?”

– Add Health to Your Life

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