Tips for National Breast Health Month
Sep 25, 2015 05:04PM
By Nick LeRoy
Breast health is defined as the absence of disease—namely cancer. It follows that because cancer is a continuum of cells becoming more and more abnormal, the healthiest breasts would be the least likely to develop cancer. These suggestions are evidence-based modifications that will improve the health of everyone’s breasts.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Excess body fat is correlated with a 30 to 60 percent increased risk of breast cancer due to higher levels of insulin and estrogen. Insulin makes tumors grow, and too much estrogen can stimulate some breast tumors.
Limit alcohol intake
Anything over one drink per day significantly increases risk of breast cancer by increasing aromatase activity. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts other hormones into estrogen. Too much aromatase activity means too much estrogen.
Limit radiation exposure to the breasts
It’s been known that X-rays cause cancer for well over 100 years, so avoiding exposure to the breasts seems self-evident. This includes chest films, CT scans of the chest and mammography. Oddly enough, the one test that all women are told can save their lives may contribute to breast cancer, and this is especially true for women under 40 that have genetic risks such as BRCA mutations. Perhaps more importantly—because if mammograms were great at finding cancer, the risk of radiation may be worth it—recent studies, including the 25-year Canadian study published in the British Medical Journal last year, found that regular mammograms did nothing to save lives. Breast thermography, ultrasound and MRI may be better options.
Supplement with iodine
We usually think of it in relation to thyroid function, but the breasts store large amounts of iodine. Supplementation has been shown to alleviate fibrocystic breast disease, as well as prevent cancer. Five milligrams per day of a potassium iodide/iodine combination is optimal.
Maintain vitamin D levels
at 60-80 ng/ml. Studies have demonstrated that maintaining levels at a higher amount than usually recommended confers an 80 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. Although we may be able to achieve this with sun exposure, the chances are we will not, and rather than damage our skin from UV radiation, it’s advisable to supplement orally.
There are many factors that may affect breast health and cancer risk, including dietary fiber, bras, underarm antiperspirants, pesticides, hormones and chemical additives to foods and cosmetics; however, these tips presented here are better supported by current research. The best advice is to be proactive—eat right, exercise, and get adequate sleep to be happier, healthier and more secure about preventing cancer.
Dr. Nick LeRoy, DC, MS, is the director of the Illinois Center for Progressive Health. He specializes in women’s health, including breast thermography and cervical dysplasia.