Breast Cancer Prevention & Micronutrients
Hidden Risks of Mammograms
Though the media and medical community focus on mammograms as the primary means of screening for breast cancer, I would like to also consider the risks. Important to note is that mammograms don’t prevent cancer – they detect it. And in some cases, they actually may cause more harm. Consider the following known issues with mammograms:
- Increased exposure to radiation, which increases the risk of cancer
- Mammograms cannot distinguish between fatal and harmless breast cancer, often leading to overdiagnosis and overtreatment of breast cancer.
- For women with dense breast tissue, ultrasound is effective in detecting cancer in cases where mammogram cannot. Ultrasound also does not expose you to radiation.
- Compressing a cancerous breast may rupture the encapsulation of a cancerous tumor and cause metastasis.
Dense breast tissue and cancer both appear white on a #mammogram https://t.co/0PtGfPOZoz pic.twitter.com/WhWZiOE9jj
— GE Healthcare (@GEHealthcare) April 14, 2016
My goal is for patients to be informed about what is being done to their bodies, so they can be informed about whether conventional medicine or alternative methods are right for them.
For example, ultrasounds are used in detecting breast cancer but is not typically a conventional first step. Many times, especially for women with dense breast tissue, doctors will send patients to get an ultrasound after the mammogram. Why not just skip the mammogram altogether and do the ultrasound?
The Truth About Breast Cancer’s Root Cause
The true root cause of breast cancer is estrogen toxicity, which affects both men and women. Instead of only promoting mammograms, I wish the medical community would encourage people to understand how their bodies metabolize estrogen and genetic mutations. Two gene mutations, MTHFR and BRCA1 in particular, can be addressed with micronutrient supplementation. Dr. Wang sees the importance of nutrition to balance certain behaviors in the body.
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MTHFR Gene Mutation
It looks like a curse word, but MTHFR is actually an important acronym to know as it relates to your health. In recent breast cancer research, scientists found a high incidence of breast cancer patients with a mutation of the MTHFR gene, which helps neutralize the metabolites (metabolism byproducts) that can be harmful to us. This can be corrected by taking 5-MTHF (5 methyltetrahydrofolic acid), which is a form of folate.
BRCA1 Gene Mutation and Breast Cancer
Another gene mutation found in breast cancer patients is the BRCA1 gene. For these cases, it is important to ensure adequate selenium levels to prevent cellular damage that lead to breast cancer.
Other Vitamin Deficiencies and Breast Cancer
Another study published last year suggested that Vitamin D plays an important role in breast cancer prevention. In this study of more than 5,000 women aged 55 and older, those with Vitamin D levels of 60ng/ml or greater had an 80% lower risk of breast cancer than those who were deficient. Additionally it was found:
- If vitamin D was initiated within 6 months of diagnosis, breast cancer mortality was reduced 49%
- Even when initiated more than 6 months after diagnosis, patients’ mortality was reduced 20%
Patients with breast cancer were also found to be deficient in Vitamin A, B1, B2, B12, C and selenium. Having adequate Vitamin B6 is vital because it detoxifies estrogen and lowers risk of invasive breast cancer especially in postmenopausal women.
Minimize your Breast Cancer Risk
Breast Cancer Preventative Foods
Preventative foods are those high in carotenoids (squash, carrots, grapefruit, oranges and apricots), cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts), onions and garlic, and lignan-rich foods ( flax, whole grains, berries). These foods reduce risk by 15%. Other preventive nutrients with aromatase-inhibiting effects are
Foods that aid in breast cancer prevention, recovery and survivorship: http://t.co/9Nj3bYBwxj pic.twitter.com/kN0QtWzdWL
— Women’s Running (@WomensRunning) October 16, 2015
Bottom Line: Measure your Micronutrient Levels
Breast cancer awareness is not about getting your mammogram, but about proactively checking your micronutrient level. Did you know that micronutrients:
- assist the body in repairing cellular damage that leads to cancer,
- prevent genetic mutations, and
- maintain a healthy hormonal balance.
It is incredible that just one nutrient deficiency may compromise your ability to fight cancer at the cellular level. Several nutrients are critical in maintaining healthy breast tissue, in addition to overall health and energy.
Test, Don’t Guess
One of my mantras is “test, don’t guess”. Do you know your micronutrient levels? Please come and see me especially if you have a higher risk for breast cancer so we can balance your diet with the nutrition that is right for you.
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Known Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Many risk factors for breast cancer are completely within your control. Knowing these risks factors and taking active measures to reduce those risks will help you live a long life with vitality. These known factors include:
- Diet poor in fruits and vegetables
- Diet high in fat
- Lack of physical activity
- Alcohol consumption
- Age over 50
- Genetic mutation
- Menstruation before age 12
- Menopause after 55
- Dense breast tissue
- History of breast cancer
- Family history of breast cancer
- Previous radiation therapy
- Exposure to estrogen 10+ years
- No childbirth or later aged childbirth
- Having taken diethylstilbestrol (synthetic estrogen for miscarriage prevention) or women whose mothers took it while pregnant
- McDonnell SL, et al. PLoS One. 2018;doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0199265 – PLoS One
- Study involved 5417 women Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2018 Jul 23 – nih.gov
- The Role of Ultrasound in Screening Dense Breasts – nih.gov
- Overdiagnosis in Breast Cancer Screening: Time to Tackle an Underappreciated Harm – nih.gov
- Radiation-Induced Breast Cancer Incidence and Mortality from Digital Mammography Screening: A Modeling Study – nih.gov
- The Downside of Mammograms – kresserinstitute.com
- Could More Vitamin D Help Prevent Breast Cancer? – webmd.com
- MTHFR 677C>T Polymorphism and the Risk of Breast Cancer: Evidence from an Original Study and Pooled Data for 28031 Cases and 31880 Controls – plos.org