Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Every October, many charities and organizations work to increase awareness of this disease and to raise funds for research primarily focusing on early diagnosis, treatment and cure. These are, of course, laudable goals. However, we feel increasing awareness that breast cancer in vast majority of women can actually be prevented, or the risk drastically reduced, should be given center stage and this is exactly our intent with our current blog. Most of us, including the blog writers, have one or more loved ones who have been affected by this ubiquitous disease. According to U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, about 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

Only 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, caused by abnormal genes (mutations) passed from parent to child. External risk factors are much bigger contributors. These risk factors are weight, diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking, exposure to estrogen, pregnancy & breast feeding, and stress & anxiety. 

What can we do to greatly reduce our risk? We can quit smoking, limit alcohol, exercise, eat a healthy diet, be at or near our ideal body weight, breast feed, limit dose and duration of hormone therapy, and avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. 

American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recent Expert Report made 10 recommendations for cancer prevention which includes a predominantly whole food plant based diet. “Basing our diets around plant foods (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans), which contain fiber and phytonutrients, can reduce our risk of cancer. For good health, AICR recommends that we base all of our meals on plant foods. When preparing a meal, aim to fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.” 

So, why do all these organizations recommend a whole food plant based diet? Because, whole plant foods contain fiber. Consuming 6 grams or more of soluble fiber had a 62% decreased risk of breast cancer than those consuming less than 4 grams. In addition, isoflavones (phytoestrogenes) found in soybeans not only reduce the risk of developing breast cancer but in women who were diagnosed with breast cancer showed a significant survival advantage. Women who ate the most soybeans were compared with women who consumed little to no soy, the survival rate for the high soy group was 90% at 5 years, compared to the low soy group survival rate at 50%. Soy even reduces the risk of breast cancer in women with BRCA gene mutations. Other foods which significantly reduce our risk of breast cancer are cruciferous vegetables with protective compounds such as sulforaphanes

While doing our research for this blog, we came across Dr. Kristi Funk, a world-renowned breast cancer surgeon and author of the book, “Breasts: The Owner’s Manual.” She recommends a four-pronged approach to dramatically reduce our risk of breast cancer – eat a whole food plant based diet, maintain a healthy body weight, exercise regularly, and limit alcohol consumption.

This October, we hope you will join PCRM and Breast Cancer Surgeon, Dr. Kristi Funk and take the pledge to follow the 4 steps to reduce your risk for breast cancer.

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