Many figure breast cancer is a case of a woman’s bad luck. As if breast cancer has descended upon us as a causeless scourge.
The reality is that what a woman consumes and what her body is exposed to are directly related to her risk of breast cancer. It really is a matter of cause and effect.
Surely there are instances of breast cancer among those with seemingly healthy diets. But to assume breast cancer is only about diet would also be short-sighted.
The fact is – as I’ve shown with other studies published here – breast cancer is also related to the many pollutants and chemical exposures our modern industrial complex has been kind enough to inflict upon the women of our society.
But to assume there is nothing a woman can do to lower her breast cancer risk is to bury ones head in the sand. Scientific research has increasingly been finding concrete ways a woman can reduce her risk of breast cancer.
Let’s talk about two of these here – both from 2016 papers published in the British Medical Journal, Lancet.
Diet and breast cancer
Researchers from Harvard University’s School of Public Health, along with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute followed over 130,000 women. Over 90,000 women between 27 and 44 years old were followed from 1991 to 2013. And over 44,000 women were followed between 1998 and 2013.
The women completed questionnaires on diet, and their instances of breast cancer were compared with their diets. Every four years, the women answered another diet questionnaire to test their diets at the time.
The research found that those who ate the most fruit during their teenage years had an average of 25 percent less incidence of breast cancer. This was even higher – between 26 and 31 percent less incidence – for postmenopausal breast cancers.
Prominent fruits during teenage years among those with reduced incidence included bananas, grapes and apples.
Breast cancer incidence also went down for those with higher intake of vegetables during their teenage years. The decreased risk ranged from 25 percent to 16 percent among the different groups.
Higher intake of both fruits and vegetables during younger adult years also reduced the risk of breast cancer, but not as much as produced during the teenage years according to the research. Young women who ate higher amounts of fruits and vegetables rich in carotene – especially alpha-carotene found in yellow or orange vegetables – had as high as 15 percent less incidence of breast cancer.
Oranges and kale were prominent among diets of young adult women who avoided cancer.
Those women who ate more vegetables during their teenage years and early adult years had a 26 percent reduced incidence of premenopausal breast cancers.
The researchers concluded:
“There is an association between higher fruit intake and lower risk of breast cancer. Food choices during adolescence might be particularly important.”
What about fruit juices?
Sorry, but no. The research found that drinking more fruit juice – through to the menopausal years – actually increased the risk of premenopausal breast cancer by 18 percent. Otherwise, fruit juice did not decrease breast cancer risk in other instances.
But why, you ask? First, fruit juices typically have little or much less of the fiber of the fruit. These fruit fibers are critical because they contain many nutrients.
In addition, many of the phytonutrients within fruit are heat sensitive. So they are lost during the pasteurization process.
It is also important to note that adding back some ascorbic acid to lift the juice’s level of vitamin C does not replace the pure vitamin C in the raw fruit. As discussed in other articles, vitamin C is more than ascorbic acid. It contains bioflavonoids, rutins, and other complexes that together make it vitamin C. This is why, for example, ascorbic acid will not cure scurvy – while most vitamin C-rich raw fruits will.
Alcohol and breast cancer
Another large study on breast cancer was conducted by researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Copenhagen. Here the researchers followed 21,523 women for 11 years. The researchers investigated the alcohol intake of the women and compared that with their incidences of breast cancer.
The researchers found that those who drank an average of four drinks a day had a 45 percent increased risk of breast cancer. Those who drank an average of three drinks a day had an 18 percent increased risk of breast cancer. Those who drank an average of two drinks a day had a 14 percent increase risk of breast cancer, and one drink a day on average increased the risk by 8 percent.
The researchers measured one drink as equivalent to 12 grams of ethanol. This is actually less than what most Westerners consider a single drink. For example, a 12-ounce bottle of beer (at 5% alcohol by volume) or a five-ounce glass of wine (at 12% ABV) will have about 14 grams of ethanol. For liquors, a 1.5 ounce shot of 80 proof (40% ABV) will have 14 grams of ethanol.
Furthermore, many beers have greater than 5% ABV and many wines have more than 12% ABV.
So let’s convert this to realistic terms:
• 45 percent increased risk = 28 drinks/week x 12 grams = 336 grams divided by 14 = 24 drinks a week = 3.4 (conservative) drinks a day
• 18 percent increased risk = 21 drinks/week x 12 grams = 252 grams divided by 14 = 18 drinks a week = 2.57 (conservative) drinks a day
• 14 percent increased risk = 14 drinks/week x 12 grams = 168 divided by 14 = 12 drinks a week = 1.7 (conservative) drinks a day
The bottom line: Drinking significantly increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. And this risk, according to the research, goes right up into the five years before breast cancer diagnoses. Those who increased their consumption of alcohol in the five years before the diagnosis had a 30 percent increase in their breast cancer incidence.
And those who decreased their intake of alcohol over the five years had no increased incidence of breast cancer.
Farvid Maryam S, Chen Wendy Y, Michels Karin B, Cho Eunyoung, Willett Walter C, Eliassen A Heather et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption in adolescence and early adulthood and risk of breast cancer: population based cohort study BMJ 2016; 353 :i2343
Dam Marie K, Hvidtfeldt Ulla A, Tjønneland Anne, Overvad Kim, Grønbæk Morten, Tolstrup Janne S et al. Five year change in alcohol intake and risk of breast cancer and coronary heart disease among postmenopausal women: prospective cohort study BMJ 2016; 353 :i2314
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.