Simple Steps to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

breast cancer, womenNew research adds to the growing body of knowledge about actions women can take to lower their breast cancer risk. The new report is an update of previous research, adding results of 81 new studies to the findings of more than 800 that have followed women in the United States and around the world to see who develops breast cancer and who doesn't.

The study provides good news for women in the form of steps they can take to protect themselves, such as:

  1. Be as lean as possible without being underweight. A healthy body mass index is defined as being above 18.5 but no greater than 25. Women closer to the lower end of the healthy weight range have the most protection from breast cancer.

  2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. If you can't do that, at least do some. Some activity is better than none, but the more, the better.

  3. Limit alcohol consumption. If you drink at all, limit your intake to one serving a day.

  4. Breast-feed. New mothers should breast-feed exclusively for up to six months -- the evidence is convincing that mothers who breast-feed reduce their risk for breast cancer.

Further, increased screenings may not be the best option for women, and men.

Separate studies suggest that some cancer tests can result in false positives. Two studies -- one looking at prostate cancer and the other at breast cancer -- show that increased screening brings false positives and the costs of emotional anguish and sometimes unnecessary treatment.

While the prostate cancer study and the breast cancer study looked at two different cancers in two different populations, both studies came to similar conclusions; a lot of patients are receiving unnecessary treatments.

In the breast cancer screening study, women were given a clinical breast exam in addition to mammography. For every additional cancer found there were 55 false positives. According to the prostate cancer study's authors, between the years 1986 and 2005, 1 million men were incorrectly diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. In fact, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women -- except for skin cancers -- and the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that over 192,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed in women in 2009, and over 40,000 will die from it.

Fortunately, you have within your power the ability to drastically reduce your cancer risk.

Even the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) states that about one-third of cancers out of the 1.4 million cancers that occur every year in the United States could be prevented by lifestyle changes -- and the three steps they recommend are an excellent starting point.

  1. Exercise regularly

  2. Maintain a healthy body weight

  3. Eat healthy

Along with these three cornerstones to health, AICR’s study above is the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer and, based on data from 954 studies, researchers found two additional steps that can lower your risk as well:

  • Not drinking alcohol, or limiting your drinks to one a day for women

  • Breastfeeding exclusively for up to six months

The researchers estimate that about 40 percent of U.S. breast cancer cases, or about 70,000 cases every year, could be prevented by making these lifestyle changes.

What Major Tip Did They Neglect to Mention?

If health officials would simply recommend that you get some sensible sun exposure, use a safe tanning bed or supplement with oral vitamin D3 if you can’t get out into the sun, there could be major advances made in the fight against cancer.

In fact, a standard recommendation like that could potentially cut cancer rates in half! I can’t think of ANY other intervention that could possibly come close to that.

Vitamin D has a protective effect against cancer in several ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)

  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells

  • Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)

  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous

There is now overwhelming evidence pointing to the fact that many of the 560,000 cancer deaths expected to occur this year could have been safely prevented with optimal vitamin D levels.

One recent study also points out vitamin D’s potential in treating breast cancer; not just in preventing it. Researchers found that calcitrol (the active form of vitamin D) can induce a tumor-suppressing protein that inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells specifically.

So please do watch my one-hour free lecture on vitamin D to find out what your optimal vitamin D levels should be … and how to get them there.

Why You Should Typically NOT Use Mammograms for Breast Cancer Screening

The ABC News article above points out a very important point, and that is that some cancer tests can result in false positives and, worse, unnecessary treatments.

Mammograms may be especially prone to this -- the mammogram detects something in your breast, a biopsy is performed, and there is no cancer present.

In fact, up to 75 percent of biopsies performed as a result of mammogram findings reveal benign conditions.

In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that the cumulative risk for a false positive result after 10 mammograms is nearly 50 percent. And the risk of enduring an unnecessary biopsy is approximately 20 percent.

Just thinking you may have breast cancer as a result of a false positive, when you really do not, focuses your mind on fear and disease, and is actually enough to trigger an illness in your body. So a false positive on a mammogram, or an unnecessary biopsy, can in and of itself damage your health.

Not to mention that women have unnecessarily undergone mastectomies, radiation and chemotherapy after receiving false positives on a mammogram. And as you may already know, chemotherapy comes with the potential side effect of cancer later on!

There are many other reasons why mammograms are not your best choice for a breast cancer screening, and you can read about them in detail in this past article.

The benefits of mammograms are highly controversial, but the risks, including radiation exposure, are well established.

John Gofman, M.D., Ph.D. -- a nuclear physicist and a medical doctor, and one of the leading experts in the world on the dangers of radiation -- presents compelling evidence in his book, Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Disease, that over 50 percent of the death-rate from cancer is in fact induced by x-rays.

Now consider the fact that the routine practice of taking four films of each breast annually results in approximately one rad (radiation absorbed dose) exposure, which is about 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray, and you begin to see why this is far from an acceptable screening option.

The Safest Option for Breast Screening

The option for breast screening that I most highly recommend is called thermography.

Thermography scans are absolutely painless and risk-free. They involve no compression of tissue, are non-invasive, and emit no radiation.

Thermography uses an infrared camera to graphically illustrate skin temperature by way of a color image. On the image, degrees of heat appear as different colors. Standard diagnostic tests such as mammograms, x-rays, MRI’s, ultrasounds and CAT scans are designed to test your anatomy. By contrast, thermography tests for physiological change and metabolic processes.

It measures the amount of body heat delivered to your skin through cellular metabolism and your nervous system.

Each area of your skin is connected to internal organs through a neural reflex arc via your spinal cord. That’s how serious underlying disease often signals its presence -- in the form of skin tenderness and sensitivity to touch.

For example, if you have heart disease, you’re apt to feel sensitivity on the skin of your neck, left arm and left chest wall.

If your appendix is inflamed or diseased, you’ll feel skin tenderness over the site of that organ, among other symptoms. The regulatory pattern of your skin reflects the condition of the corresponding internal organ.

Your skin temperature patterns are indicators of metabolic activity in different parts of your body. Disturbances in your body’s metabolic processes appear via thermal imaging as areas of inflammation, degeneration and/or blockage. Left untreated, these metabolic and cellular stresses often show up in the form of anatomical damage years later.

Think of thermography as preventive medicine, which can be used to detect, control and even prevent serious illness or disease that otherwise would not be diagnosed until it is well-advanced.

Mammography cannot detect a tumor until after it has been growing for years and reaches a certain size. Thermography is able to detect the possibility of breast cancer much earlier, because it can image the early stages of angiogenesis (the formation of a direct supply of blood to cancer cells, which is a necessary step before they can grow into tumors of size).

So thermography allows you to detect the beginnings of disease sooner, so you’re able to take appropriate treatment steps to get your body healing right away.

You can find out more about thermography at my Thermography Diagnostics Center.

What Else Can You do to Bring Your Cancer Risk Down Even More?

A healthy diet, physical exercise, appropriate sun exposure and an effective way to manage your emotional health are the cornerstones of just about any cancer prevention program.

But for breast cancer, specifically, you can take it a step further by also watching out for excessive iron levels. This is actually very common once women stop menstruating. The extra iron actually works as a powerful oxidant, increasing free radicals and raising your risk of cancer.

All you need to do is measure your ferritin level and if it is above 80, donate blood, which will reduce the amount of iron that you have and thereby lower your cancer risk.