October is breast cancer awareness month. So much of the attention is paid to ‘awareness’ and fund-raising at this time, but let’s talk about science-driven prevention. This story was first run in 2017…
Functional medicine doctor and registered dietitian, Elizabeth Boham, has a passion to educate more women on the simple tenets of breast cancer prevention. As part of Dr. Mark Hyman’s UltraWellness Center team, Dr. Elizabeth focuses on breast health and breast cancer. While prevention as a whole is a puzzle modern medicine is still solving for, Dr. Elizabeth shares some powerfully preventative lifestyle choices below and we’re taking note…
Many health organizations and practitioners emphasize the importance of getting regular mammograms. Many of us go for our yearly mammograms, thinking that we are being proactive and preventing breast cancer. Although mammograms can be helpful for early detection, a healthy lifestyle is more important for true prevention. The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that at least 33% of U.S. breast cancer cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, breastfeeding and avoiding alcohol .Remember, the key is to create a healthy terrain in your body where cancer is less likely to grow. These four easy steps can help you support this environment…
maintain a healthy weight.
The most agreed-upon step that all women can take to decrease their risk of getting breast cancer is maintaining a healthy weight. Excess body fat can increase the level of inflammation in our body. Body fat is an active endocrine organ. It produces inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). Elevated inflammation levels in the body have been linked to an increase risk of cancer . In addition, excess fat in our body results in an increased level of estrogen. This is because the fat in our body produces an enzyme called aromatase that can turn other hormones in our body into estrogen. The more body fat someone has, the more aromatase and estrogen they have – and the higher their risk of breast cancer .
get physical for lean muscle mass.
Physical activity is the best thing each of us can do every day to decrease our risk of getting breast cancer. Physical activity helps us maintain a healthy weight and maintain our lean muscle mass. Maintaining good lean muscle mass helps insulin work well. Insulin is a very important hormone in our bodies that regulates our blood-sugar level. We want this insulin to remain sensitive to signals in our bodies, such as when our blood sugar increases. Insulin resistance has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and a decreased survival rate from breast cancer . Exercise improves insulin sensitivity and helps maintain a healthy percentage of body fat. As a result, daily exercise has been linked to a decreased risk of breast cancer .
Breastfeed if you’re able.
Breastfeeding decreases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer for a couple of reasons. When a woman breastfeeds her children, it takes a longer time for her menstrual period to return. As a result, she has less menstrual cycles in her lifetime and a lower exposure to estrogen. In addition, breastfeeding changes a woman’s breast tissue. This change makes the breast tissues less susceptible to becoming cancerous. So breastfeeding is not just good for the child, it is helpful for Mom as well!
Inbibe in Balance.
Alcohol and its connection to breast cancer has been very well studied, and the results are striking. As one’s alcohol intake increases, so does one’s risk of breast cancer. Unbelievably, there is a linear relationship between the two. For every one drink increase in consumption per day, a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer is increased by 12% . And if a woman drinks more than two drinks per day, her risk is increased three fold. The reasons why alcohol increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer are not conclusive. But we do know that alcohol puts stress on our liver, decreases our level of B vitamins and can be associated with other unhealthy lifestyle choices. A good rule of thumb is to keep your alcohol intake to five or less drinks per week. Remember, a drink is either 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or one ounce of hard alcohol.
To learn more about breast cancer prevention and how to create a cancer-free physical terrain, you can download Dr Elizabeth’s free ebook here.
 Allen, N., etal. “Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women.” J Nat Cancer Inst.2009;101:296-305.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.