Recently, researchers have concluded that one third of all breast cancer cases in Western countries could be prevented if women ate healthier diets and exercised more. This is great news for all women and a shift in the thinking of most of modern medicine. Most of traditional medicine, funded by the pharmaceutical industry, has focused too much on treatment and screening and not enough on actual prevention. While treatment for breast cancer is extremely important, the best treatment is doing everything you can to avoid it.
When you read most information on breast cancer you will see ‘prevention of breast cancer’ in the same sentence as ‘mammograms’ and ‘self breast exams.’ Mammograms and self breast exams never did anything to prevent breast cancer. They are great for early detection which is important in the outcome of many cases of breast cancer, but they do nothing to actually prevent it. True prevention means you never get a disease. Finding it early in its course obviously means it was not prevented.
Reseasrchers are finally cathcing up with what people in natural and holistic health have been saying for years.
“What can be achieved with screening has been achieved. We can’t do much more,” Carlo La Vecchia, head of epidemiology at the University of Milan, told The Associated Press. “It’s time to move onto other things.”
Breast cancer is very common in the U.S. unfortunately. In 2009 there were 190,000 new cases of breast cancer and just over 41,000 deaths. A women’s overall lifetime chance of developing breast cancer is about 1 in 8. Obese women are 60% more likely to get breast cancer. Breast cancer is fueled by estrogen and fatty tissue produces estrogen. The theory is that women who are overweight produce more estrogen thereby increasing their risk of developing breast cancer.
Many breast cancer agencies have been careful not to issue guidelines on weight for fear of offending women or causing them to feel responsible for their diagnosis of breast cancer. That might be the most ridiculous and irresponsible notion I have ever heard. That’s like the American Heart Association not issuing guidelines on weight because they don’t want you to feel responsible for your heart attack, or the American Heart and Lung Association not telling you to stop smoking because they don’t want you to feel guilty if you get lung cancer. What the breast cancer associations should be doing is issuing strict guidelines on diet and exercise to empower women. By issuing these guidelines they would be telling them that they have a choice and can do something to reduce their overall risk! Yes, breast cancer is a complex disease with many factors to it and diet and exercise won’t stop every case, but why not do everything you can to prevent it?
Women need to be on diets that are anti-inflammatory. These are diets that are natually low in carbohydrate and high in healthy fats. These low glycemic diets will reduce insulin production, reduce fat storage and reduce estrogen production significantly over a woman’s lifetime. (See our post about the dangers of inflammation and samples of healthy foods.) Exercises should be varied. Weight training mixed with cardiovascular training is best. Weight training maintains lean muscle mass which inhibits fat deposition and cardiovascular training keeps the heart healthy.
I am not suggesting in any way that if a woman gets breast cancer it’s her fault because she did not exercise. Quite the contrary actually. Most health professionals do not treat proactively and have no advice for women on what they should do to protect themselves from various diseases. They are handcuffed by their education to simply give a pill once a disease becomes diagnosable. I can’t tell you how many times I have patients come to me who are “waiting to be treated” for a disease that they are on their way to developing, but it hasn’t quite met the requirements just yet. This is the worst model of medicine, but it is unfortunately the most prevalent.
More and more we are seeing that diet and exercise (big surprise) is the best way to prevent a whole host of diseases. What needs to happen is that the focus shifts from disease treament to disease prevention. That is truly the only way that we are going to reduce health costs and improve the health of our country.