Gill Stannard

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ten Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer

Today, according to the pink banner of the online newspaper I am reading, is pink ribbon day. But within the same publication, not wrapped in a pretty pink bow, is part of a real way to prevent many known causes of cancer – an article on food as medicine.

While ribbon days raise awareness about a disease, we are still selectively deaf to some of the messages that the research validates. While much energy is spent looking for genetic causes or pharmaceutical ‘cures’, how we live can determine some degree of risk for developing cancers, especially breast cancer.

Body size, diet and alcohol consumption are among the main lifestyle factors that may influence a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
National Breast Cancer Foundation 2006-2007 Annual Report

Tucked away in the report is Professor Graham Giles’ research that includes:

The risk of breast cancer increases by 18% for every 10 kilograms of extra body weight gained, in post-menopausal women.

In all women, drinking 4 or more standard units of alcohol a day increases the breast cancer risk by up to 40%.

Folate, the equivalent to two cups of boiled spinach (400 mcg folate) a day, may negate some of these risks.

But these findings are not new. The connection between breast cancer and excess fat and ANY consumption of alcohol has long been demonstrated.

Furthermore we know that the risk of developing most if, not all, cancers can be increased by our dietary choices. Top of the list is preserved meats (ham, bacon, salami, Devon etc).

Ten Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer

So without tens of millions of research dollars at your direct disposal, how can you save money and decrease your risk of breast cancer?

1. Eat anti inflammatory foods and herbs: such as ginger, turmeric, deep sea fish, fresh raw seeds and nuts.

2. Opt out of the oestrogen disruptors and xenooestrogens in the food chain. While pesticides and other chemicals used in conventional farming may have a direct effect on your health when you eat the food grown with it, there is flow on effects for everyone when run off from these agricultural chemicals enter our waterways. Buy as much certified organic food as you can afford.

3. Other suspected oestrogen disruptors can be found in plastics. Use less plastic and don’t cook (microwave) food in plastic containers or with plastic wrap. Try to source BPA-free baby bottles made from glass if you need to use them.

4. If you want to drink pure water, stop spending money on expensive bottled water and invest in a reverse osmosis water filter. This is the most effective filtration method and will even reduce ionizing radiation in water, a known cause of breast cancer. Store your water in glass, rather than plastic.

5. Reduce all animal fats in your diet. Eat less meat and dairy foods, and more whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and fish.

6. Throw the scales away but measure your waist once a month. Abdominal fat is a known risk factor breast and other cancers, as well as adult onset diabetes. For women the maximum waist measurement for good health is 80cm.

7. Waist measurement can be reduced by pilates, walking and almost any exercise that is suitable for your particular body type. Clean up your diet with a spring clean, which by the end of the ten days has created a sustainable way to eat healthily.

8. Stop smoking, cigarettes and marijuana are known carcinogens. If you need help, see a psychologist who specializes in hypnotherapy for addictions. Most people can give up smoking in just 1-2 sessions.

9. Really understand what a standard drink is. If you drink wine, did you know that every different bottle of wine you drink may vary in strength? At home, before you open the wine read how many standard drinks it contains, take the amount of mls of wine the bottle contains, divide by the number of standard drinks and measure the amount you come up with. Compare the measured pour to how much you’d usually put in the glass. You’ll be surprised!

While it is questionable that any alcohol (even a glass a week) is considered safe in terms of breast cancer prevention, at least get clear on what a standard drink is. If you really enjoy alcohol – choose quality over quantity, stop habitual drinking (your after work “reward”) and stick to 1-2 standard drinks, 1-2 times a week.

10. Decrease everyone’s exposure to radiation. While you might not mine uranium or deal with nuclear weaponry yourself, women living near uranium mines are at an elevated risk of developing breast cancer. Uranium from mines also has a risk of entering the wider community through contamination of waterways. Say “NO” to uranium mining in Australia, support campaigns for nuclear disarmament and alternative fuels to nuclear power. There also appear to be breast cancer clusters after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant leaked, as far away as California and Japan, correlating with areas of rainfall the day after the disaster occurred.


While the research is almost exclusively on women, it is often forgotten that men get breast cancer too. There are many ways you can celebrate prevention and survival of breast cancer – just choose the easiest thing from my Ten Ways to Breast Prevent Cancer and start with the first step today.

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