October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so I thought I'd share some great tips for breast cancer prevention from an article by Dr. Alan Gaby.

Things to avoid:

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound used in the production of plastic and as a preservative lining on the insides of cans and bottles. Public pressure has caused many companies to remove it, after studies showed that BPA leaches into food and can cause a disruption in endocrine activity [1]. It specifically affects the production of estrogen, which can contribute to the development of breast cancer. Look for water bottles labeled "BPA free" and buy your canned goods from BPA-free brand Eden Organic.

Pesticides also affect estrogenic activity, and observational studies have found an association between breast cancer and pesticide exposure [2,3]. Pesticides are absorbed into some foods more heavily than others. Shelly wrote a great guide on the greatest and least pesticide-laden produce the greatest and least pesticide-laden produce.

Chlorine is added to water as a disinfectant. According to Dr. Alan Gaby, "Chlorine in water reacts with organic matter to form a number of organic compounds, some of which are carcinogenic, such as trihalomethanes and chloroform." Consumption of chorinated water has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer [4,5]. Thankfully, chlorine is not hard to remove, either by adding a filter to your tap, by boiling your water or (which was new to me) by adding a pinch of vitamin C crystals. One of my favorite supplements from Down to Earth is HealthForce Naturals Real Vitamin C, which comes in crystallized rather than tablet form.

Alcohol has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, especially when consumed in large amounts. Of course, there are lots of other good reasons to avoid alcohol in large amounts, many of them more immediately lethal than cancer. But it never hurts to add one more item to the list of reasons to abstain.

Heavily cooked meat has been linked to a number of cancers, including breast cancer, because when flesh is subjected to high heat, it forms carcinogenic compounds. On the other hand, undercooked meat has been linked to E. coli poisoning from fecal contamination, which can result in coma and death. The better option might be to simply avoid meat all together and load up on some of the following healthy, nutritious and delicious plant foods:

Things to add to your diet:

Soy is packed with cancer fighting compounds such as isoflavones (which have an anti-estrogenic effect), lignan precursors, beta-sitosterol, and phytate [6]. Whole baby soybeans (called edamame), are a delicious snack when roasted or boiled. They're also easy to grow - we just brought in our first harvest, and I've been enjoying popping them out of the pod and adding a touch of sea salt.

Fruits and vegetables contain numerous cancer-fighting compounds and many observational studies have associated increased intake of fruits and vegetables with a decreased risk of breast cancer. Specifically, fruits and vegetables are a good source of fiber, which is believed to influence estrogen metabolism. Fiber also helps combat colon cancer and promote digestive health in general. For more detailed information on the cancer-fighting properties of different fruits and vegetables, check out the article, "Top Cancer Fighting Foods".

Footnotes: 
  1. Feldman D. Estrogens from plastic - are we being exposed? Endocrinology 1997;138:1777-1779.
  2. Hoyer AP, Grandjean P, Jorgensen T, et al. Organochlorine exposure and risk of breast cancer. Lancet 1998;352:1816-1820.
  3. Hoyer AP, Jorgensen T, Grandjean P, Hartvig HB. Repeated measurements of organochlorine exposure and breast cancer risk (Denmark). Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:177-184.
  4. Koivusalo M, Pukkala E, Vartiainen T, et al. Drinking water chlorination and cancer - a historical cohort study in Finland. Cancer Causes Control 1997;8:192-200.
  5. Flaten TP. Chlorination of drinking water and cancer incidence in Norway. Int J Epidemiol 1992;21:6-15.
  6. Messina M, Messina V. Increasing use of soyfoods and their potential role in cancer prevention. J Am Diet Assoc 1991;91:836-840.