It’s a rare day that goes by for me without seeing a female patient who is concerned about breast cancer. And who can blame them? Nearly 300,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, and the disease was fatal for roughly 40,000 of them. Even though heart disease claims more women’s lives, breast cancer is the most common – and feared – cancer among American women.
As a result, I spent time sifting through medical research on breast cancer. Here are 12 suggestions that I believe can help keep you stay cancer-free. (Gentlemen, please don’t feel left out of this discussion. Breast cancer affects men, too, with more than 2,000 cases being diagnosed annually.) And remember, many of the lifestyle changes I outline here can reduce not only your risk of breast cancer but of cancer in general. So please read on and do your best to actually act on my advice. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to improve your health habits.
1) Keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
Your body releases the hormone melatonin, which protects against breast cancer, only in darkness. So turn off all nightlights and television while sleeping.
Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant with a wide range of health benefits, including protection against neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, improved outcomes for cancer patients, and even reduced occurrence of migraines.
Since production of melatonin in the body slows after age 40, this is one supplement I frequently recommend to women who are concerned about breast cancer.
2) Get regular daily exercise.
Studies have shown people who exercise for a total of four hours each week have a significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer. Exercise also helps with weight management, which is widely known to have a positive impact on countless aspects of your health.
3) Limit your alcohol intake.
Or consider giving it up altogether. Consuming more than four servings of alcohol each week raises the risk of breast cancer.
For those who want to be on the safe side, just say no to alcohol. But for those who don’t want to abstain or who want the benefits afforded by health-promoting antioxidants in wine, limit yourself to no more than one glass four times per week. Or get those antioxidants without the alcohol by consuming some red grapes or a glass of grape juice instead.
Also, please take a vitamin B complex supplement afterward, to protect delicate breast tissue from the damage alcohol can cause.
4) Spend at least 20 minutes each day in the sun.
This helps increase your levels of vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin.” Research shows that postmenopausal women with the highest levels of vitamin D had a lower risk of developing breast cancer when compared to those with the lowest levels.
I recommend 1,500 IUs of vitamin D3 daily, unless your levels are low, in which case you will likely need a higher dose. A simple blood test can tell you if you need more vitamin D3. If that turns out to be the case, your doctor can suggest appropriate dosage.
5) Skip toxic household cleaning products and pesticides.
These products contain chemicals that disrupt our hormones and act as carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) on mammary glands. For a look at homemade alternatives to the chemical soup found in most cleansers, check out my article on “green cleaning.”
6) Take a daily dose of iodine.
Supplemental iodine has been shown to eliminate abnormal cells that are destined to become cancerous, as well as early cancer cells. I often recommend a product called i-Throid, which should be available in health food stores. Just follow the dosage instructions on the supplements.
7) Build up your good bacteria with a probiotic supplement.
Probiotics provide a long list of health benefits, including helping with the proper breakdown of estrogen, a hormone implicated in breast cancer.
8) Reduce stress with meditation.
Stress raises levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol, which is linked to some serious health issues, including anxiety, weight gain, and cancer. Meditation reduces cortisol while boosting levels of the “feel-good” hormone, serotonin, and supporting healthy immunity – another important element for fighting cancer.
9) Stop drinking water from plastic bottles.
I have written about the health complications caused by BPA (bisphenol A), a hormone-disruptive substance that’s been linked to cancer.
BPA is found in many plastics and the linings of most canned foods. If you’re drinking the recommended amount of water from plastic bottles, please invest in glass or non-BPA bottles and an efficient water filter.
10) Dry-brush your skin.
Before bathing, use a natural bristle brush to gently stroke your dry skin. I suggest starting at your feet and brushing up toward your heart, then continue brushing your legs, arms, and chest.
The whole process can take as little as five minutes, or you can continue for up to 20 minutes. Remember to be gentle, so your skin isn’t scratched or abraded.
This process not only feels good, but it also stimulates lymphatic drainage, which removes toxins from the body.
11) Do not wear a bra with underwires.
The wires prevent good lymphatic drainage in the breasts, which could contribute to an elevated risk of cancer. For the same reasons, do not sleep in a bra.
12) Eat at least two cups of broccoli each week.
Broccoli contains a substance known as indol-3 carbinol (I3C), which supports healthy estrogen balance throughout your body and protects breast cells. Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts also contain significant amounts of I3C.
Making these changes could help you stay cancer-free, especially when combined with regular self-exams and thermography (a safer, radiation-free alternative to mammograms).
If you’ve had the disease already, the lifestyle alterations I’m recommending can be powerful allies in preventing a recurrence. If the list seems overwhelming, simply tackle one change per week for the next few months, and, before you know it, you’ll be healthier than ever!
by Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.