If you had to name one of your biggest health fears, would breast cancer be top of your list? Public health campaigns have put this important health issue on our radar and obviously that’s a good thing. Because according to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is diagnosed in 1 in 7 women. If you gather a small group of your girlfriends, someone is going to get it. It is real.
Yet, when we talk about this concerning disease, the focus is often on detection (think mammograms) and treatment (think mastectomies). And far too little is said about prevention.
What about you? Are you in the know? How clued up are you about the best lifestyle habits to reduce your breast cancer risk?
The Power of Prevention (and Reduction of Fear)
Living with the fear of breast cancer, fearing it, and not understanding it is a toxic way of living. Going for a mammogram is like waiting for a sickness to happen. Like you’re waiting for the worse news of your life.
I’m all about taking steps to promote your own wellness and prevent illness. To help prevent breast cancer, it’s important to recognize the links between elevated hormones and ill health. This is particularly true for estrogen, the female hormone that helps us develop our menstrual cycle and curves. Many women are very surprised to learn that breast cancer can be fed by estrogen. And there’s plenty of clear science to show the link.
Here is the good news: Estrogenic cancers like breast (as well as thyroid, ovarian, uterine and lung) cancer can be managed with a sensible diet and clean lifestyle options. This article is about that.
When Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School looked at women’s hormones via blood samples taken from the ongoing Nurses Health Study, they found a strong link between hormonal imbalance and breast cancer.
Their study measured levels of eight different important hormones in women after menopause. Those hormones included estrogen, androgenic hormones, DHEA, prolactin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). The results were startling. When more than one hormone level was elevated, the risk of breast cancer doubled. And when several were elevated? It tripled. But the hormone with the biggest impact? Was estrogen. You can click here to read more about this study.
This study is a potent reminder of the importance of keeping your hormones in balance; not too high and not too low.
What can you do to protect yourself from breast cancer right now?
Knowledge is power, so first up, I want you to understand how cancer and breast cancer form and grow.
Next, you will learn how you can control some breast cancer risk factors if you take steps to make the right lifestyle changes to reduce them.
Only five percent of breast cancers are related to genetics and even then, that doesn’t mean that all women with the BRAC genes that make them more vulnerable, will go on to develop breast cancer.
Though you can’t alter risk factors like your age or parents, simple lifestyle changes can do a great deal to protect you from developing breast cancer.
One of the least discussed but most important steps is to reduce risks caused by too much estrogen.
In my experience working with women, estrogen dominance (ED) is very common, but often women don’t know the signs or even realize that ED is a concern or that it kick starts substantial health risks.
Learn how to rebalance your hormones with food in my book, Cooking for Hormone Balance.
How Breast Cancer Forms and Multiplies
Cancer cells are triggered when a mutation in normal cells occur. This can happen due to well-known problematic lifestyle factors like living on junk food, chronic sunburn and cigarette smoking, but hormones can also play a big role. Once cancer cells are born they grow and divide to make more cancer cells, which form a tumor that may contain millions of cancer cells.
Cancers need a blood supply to provide them the oxygen, nutrients and hormones like estrogen, which help them grow and multiply. But as they get bigger they are often further away from the blood vessels so they need to set up their own supply. They do this by sending out signals that tell your body to grow new blood vessels like capillaries. This process is called angiogenesis. And it is ongoing, so once it occurs the cancer keeps getting bigger and then may start to spread to organs like your liver (where the cancer is called a secondary). That’s why scientists are working on cancer vaccines and drugs to try to halt the process of angiogenesis.
Breast cancer is often caused by cancer cells growing in the lobules, where milk is produced or the ducts, where the milk travels to the nipple. Breast cancer cells may then spread to surrounding breast tissue, then move to the lymph nodes under the arms and migrate to other parts of the body.
How Estrogen Feeds Cancer
A high proportion of breast cancers are Estrogen Receptor Positive. This means they have a large number of estrogen receptors, indicating that estrogen is helping to feed their growth.
The American Cancer Society explains Estrogen Receptor Positive cancer like this:
Estrogen Receptors (ER) and Progesterone Receptors (PR)
Receptors are proteins in or on certain cells that can attach to certain substances, such as hormones, that circulate in the blood. Normal breast cells and some breast cancer cells contain receptors that attach to estrogen and progesterone. These 2 hormones often fuel the growth of breast cancer cells.
An important step in evaluating a breast cancer is to test the cancer removed during the biopsy (or surgery) to see if it has estrogen and progesterone receptors. Cancer cells may have neither, one, or both of these receptors. Breast cancers that have estrogen receptors are often referred to as ER-positive (or ER+) cancers, while those containing progesterone receptors are called PR-positive (or PR+) cancers.
All invasive breast cancers should be tested for both of these hormone receptors either on the biopsy sample or when they are removed with surgery. About 2 of 3 breast cancers have at least one of these receptors. This percentage is higher in older women than in younger women. Ductal carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells inside the milk ducts) should be checked for estrogen receptors, as well.
Hormone receptor-positive: If the breast cancer cells contain either estrogen or progesterone receptors, they can be called hormone receptor-positive (or just hormone-positive). Breast cancers that are hormone receptor-positive can be treated with breast-cancer-treating hormone-therapy drugs that lower estrogen levels or block estrogen receptors. This includes cancers that are ER-negative but PR-positive….. Hormone receptor-positive cancers are more common in women after menopause.
Breast cancer that involves estrogen and progesterone receptors is likely to respond to treatments known as “endocrine therapies”. In medicine, drugs such as Tamoxifen are used to block the estrogen receptors and help prevent the cancer from recurring. In post-menopausal women, drugs called aromatase inhibitors may be more beneficial to help stop production of estrogen.
But what women with breast cancer are rarely told? That as well as taking medication (which creates its own set of problems and serious side effects), they can adopt diet and lifestyle strategies which can effectively reduce high levels of the antagonistic estrogen, estradiol.
And addressing estrogen dominance through lifestyle is equally important if you don’t have cancer. By reducing your estradiol levels you stabilize your progesterone levels too – which in the long-term, could reduce your risk of breasts cancers that are ER Positive and PR Positive.
Reducing Estrogen Dominance is also important to reduce the risk of other ER Positive cancers of the:
- Lungs (in non-smokers)
- Prostate, in men
Signs of Estrogen Dominance (ED)
Estrogen can be metabolized in your body in different ways. Some pathways lead to estrogen metabolites that can compromise your health. This can be a particular problem if your liver is not functioning well. Then your liver doesn’t process estrogen metabolites (or byproducts) and help remove them from your body, and you end up with more estrogen circulating, causing havoc and estrogen excess.
ED can mean one of two things: you either have too much estradiol in relation to progesterone, or an imbalance in your estrogen metabolites (some are protective and some are dangerous).
This can lead to the following symptoms:
- Bad PMS
- Lumpy, painful or swollen breasts
- Fertility issues
- Ovarian cysts
- Heavy periods
- Fluid retention (swollen hands and feet)
- Low libido
- Weight gain, particularly around the hips
Not All Estrogens Are Bad
Let me not vilify all estrogens, as they are not the same. There are 16 forms of estrogens but today’s science has only gone deeper into understanding three estrogens: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3). Out of these three, estradiol tends to be the most aggressive estrogen that has been linked to breast cancer multiplication. In fact, estriol is a protective estrogen that is often prescribed for women with estrogen dominance.
Another thing I need you to know is that it is also certain metabolites (or by products) that are broken down in the liver that can be antagonistic. In fact, one of the breast cancer risk tests used is a blood test called 2:16 hydroxy-estrone which measures the relationship between estrone’s metabolites to determine the risk factor. In my practice, I like to look at three markers to identify the risk factor of a women (this is apart from her health history and diet):
- 2:16 hydroxy-estrone ratio (blood test)
- Estrogen quotient (EQ) which is the ratio of E3/E1+E2 (saliva test)
- Estradiol-to-progesterone ratio (saliva or urine test)
The first test can be ordered by your physician, while you can order the saliva test online from Canary Club. The urine tests need to be ordered by an integrative physician, one of whom you can find near you from the listing here .
You Have More Power Than You Have Been Told
You have more power over your risk of breast cancer than you think. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself. Each one of them has other positive domino effects for your hormonal balance and overall health:
- Rotate Seeds Into Your Diet
Seeds can be used to balance your hormone levels by boosting estrogen in the first part of your menstrual cycle and progesterone in the second half. If you are going through menopause, start any day and do each cycle for 14 days.
For Breast Protection:
- Cycle seeds into your diet: Eat a mix of different seeds such as flaxseed, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame. To find out which seeds to eat for your hormonal status, take a look at my post, How To Use Seed Rotation to Regulate Your Menstrual Cycle.
I’ve had women report PMS getting better, their periods returning and menopause symptoms lessening in a matter of two to three months of being on the seed rotation.
- Plate Up With These Plants
Vegetables are packed with phytonutrients that have powerful cancer-fighting properties. Women who eat more vegetables are particularly protected against ER Positive breast cancer, shows 2013 research published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
For Breast Protection:
- Vary your vegetable intake to include cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They are rich in Indole 3 Carbinol, which has been shown to block cancer growth.
- Bring on the tiny, tender and crunchy broccoli sprouts as they contain di-indolyl-methane (short form: DIM, also found as a supplement) which detoxifies us of estradiol. Broccoli sprouts also contain the highest amounts of sulforaphane, which has been linked by numerous studies to not only prevent, but also reverse breast cancer. Sulforaphane can also be found in smaller quantities in other cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli or cauliflower.
Depending on one’s health condition, studies have shown that ¼ cup to 1 cup of broccoli sprouts can create profound health improvement and decrease in breast cancer tumors.
Try this: Our own Hormone Balance Nutritional supplement line – Brocco Power: The potency of sulforaphane available in one capsule is equivalent to consuming 500 grams of fresh broccoli or 100 grams of sprouts.
- Add a dash of olive oil: This does more than help you absorb more nutrients. Oleic acid in olive oil may be as effective as medication in killing some cancer-causing proteins. A large-scale Spanish study has shown women who regularly consumed olive oil have less incidence of breast cancer.
- If you take vitamin B supplements, be sure it contains folate and not folic acid which is the synthetic, cheap and harmful form. Do not buy foods that are fortified, such as breakfast cereals and bread – they often contain folic acid. Even though folate is vital to our overall health, this study showed that women taking more than 400mcg/day are at a higher risk of breast cancer. This does not mean not to take folate – it’s just a reminder that there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”
Avoid taking vitamins containing folic acid which is the synthetic form – studies such as this one shows a link to breast cancer.
- Put a rainbow on your plate. This ensures you a getting a wide variety of different vitamins and minerals, which support your immune system.
- Go for red. Enjoy tomatoes regularly if you are not sensitive to the nightshade family. Research published in 2014, found that women who eat tomatoes regularly had positive impacts on the hormones that regulate fat and sugar metabolism, helping to reduce breast cancer risk.
- Choose the right foods for your body. That may mean that rye sourdough, kombucha, soy milk and kale smoothies are not the best choices for you. To find out why and also learn how to stabilize your hormones through food, I invite you to sign up for my FREE Workshop, Cooking For Balance.
I hope you’ll check out our recipe collection created to help you detoxify from estrogen the natural way.
- Love Your Liver, the Estrogen Detox Ally
A sluggish liver does not carry out its important job of filtering toxins, chemical byproducts and hormonal metabolites from your body. This can leave you with high circulating levels of the dangerous estrogen metabolites.
For Breast Protection:
- Add bitters in the form of dandelion leaves and root, burdock, chicory root, parsley, radicchio or bitters in tincture form. They stimulate bile production which then helps “flush out” estrogen and other steroid hormones.
- Add fiber, my favorite being 2 tablespoons of freshly ground golden flax seed. Fiber promotes good bowel movement which is essential in carrying out the toxic estrogens. Chronic constipation can contribute to the re-absorption of antagonistic estrogens back to the blood stream.
- Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or half a lemon to a glass of warm water and drink it before breakfast in the morning. This helps stimulate the gallbladder to release the bile which is instrumental in “flushing out” estrogen.
- Minimize your intake of alcohol, sugar and processed oils like trans fatty acids, which all put a load on the liver. Sugar not only feeds bad bacteria, unbalancing your belly microbiome, it also feeds candida. An increasing number of studies are starting to confirm that candida may have a pro-tumor effect, helping cancer to thrive.
- Avoid use of medications where possible (and don’t mix drugs and meds together).
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid fatty liver disease.
- Consider a liver detox. In my post, The Role of the Liver in Female Hormone Balance, I explain how to do this using the six different liver pathways.
Try these supplements from our own Hormone Balance Nutritionals for detox support: Detox Complete Kit – items in the kit can be purchased separately or as a bundle to save 10% + free shipping.
- Add Good Gut Bacteria to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Another interesting data point is the recent findings on the estrobolome – a subset of the gut bacteria that helps metabolize estrogen. Who would have thought that the poor gut bacteria would bring on estrogen dominance and breast cancer?
“The estrobolome provides a framework for understanding how an individual’s resident gut bacteria may modulate lifetime estrogen exposure,” said Dr. Plottel. “States of estrogen excess are associated with an increased risk of developing estrogen-related cancers, so knowledge and characterization of the estrabolome represent a novel area of promising scientific and biomedical research.”
I am a fan of combining the forces of fermented foods with pill-based probiotics that are high in lactobacilus and bifidobacteria groups, soil bacteria as well as sporebiotics that I have personally had amazing results with.
- Skip the BBQ (and watch your meat intake)
When meat is chargrilled, the amino acids change to a form that is more carcinogenic (cancer-forming). This is because, in the cooking process on the high heat, chemicals called Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) are formed. Emerging evidence indicates that eating too many of these chemicals may fast-track the ageing process in your body and may be linked to conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and narrowing of the arteries.
The main problem with AGEs? Just as the sun ages our skin from the outside, these chemicals age our bodies from the inside. The main impact occurs from AGEs crosslinking with other strands of protein, causing inflammation, loss of flexibility and stiffening of tissues. This occurs everywhere from the collagen in skin and the inside of arteries to the myelin protecting nerves in the brain.
There is a strong relationship between the levels of AGES in our diet and insulin levels. Research conducted in 2013 at the University of Queensland in Australia found that even short-term consumption of processed foods high in AGE’s can have detrimental effects on insulin sensitivity, which may hasten development of weight gain and diabetes Type 2. In turn this may increase levels of fat cells that then pump out bigger amounts of estrogen.
In addition, higher intake of red meat can increase breast cancer risk, according to a review of data from over 88,000 women in the Harvard Nurses’ Health study.
For Breast Protection:
- Buy organic meat: This will help ensure your meat is free of hormones. Research has shown that meat and chicken sold in the US, has almost the same levels of E2 estrogen as the levels found in human fat tissue.
- Marinate meat before you BBQ – this can help meat cook faster, which may lessen the dangerous charcoaling effect.
- Choose healthy whole grains: A lightly toasted sourdough rye produces fewer AGEs than a darkly toasted white bread. Wholegrains in muffins or cakes, also help lower AGE content. Toasted muesli has higher AGEs than a cereal like porridge made from whole oats.
- Lower the cooking temperature: Cooking at lower temperatures, below 250oC, reduces AGE formation. For example, scrambled eggs prepared in an open pan over medium-low heat have about half the AGEs of eggs prepared in the same way but over high heat.
- Cut back on red meat. Instead, mix up your forms of protein so you eat organic chicken, wild caught fish and plenty of plant proteins like legumes. Eating red meat ramps up a woman’s risk of breast cancer and processed meat is the worst choice, shows research from the University of Leeds.
The take-home message? Eat meat, especially red meat, in moderation – preferably no more than twice a week. And remember – you only need a palm full, not a plateful!
- Lose The Daily Wine
In the afternoon or evening on most weeknights, fridge doors are flung open with gusto by rushing women. Seconds later a familiar glug, glug, glug marks the start of a daily drinking ritual enjoyed by countless wired working moms and career women. In our modern world, women are so chronically busy that alcohol has become the emotional anesthetic we use to feel less overwhelmed from the daily juggle of being super worker or supermom or both.
Sound familiar? Then it’s important to find healthier ways to unwind. Obviously there will be special occasions where you let your hair down and tipple until you’re tipsy – but don’t make a habit of it.
Whether you prefer wine, beer or cocktails makes no difference – all alcohols add equally to breast cancer risk. One of the most recent studies confirming this link involved five Spanish universities and more than 300,000 female volunteers. The 2015 study confirmed that the risk of breast cancer quadruples with the intake of each daily glass of wine or beer.
For Breast Protection:
- Drink Less: Have alcohol in moderation and aim for several alcohol-free days each week.
- Meditate or listen to soothing music instead of using chardonnay or a G&T to unwind.
- Aim to drink no more than one glass of wine a day.
- Swap higher alcohol drinks such as spirits for lighter options including wine spritzers and low alcohol wine.
- Save alcohol for special occasions: And I don’t mean the end of the week! Enjoy a glass of wine or champagne at events like weddings and big-number birthday parties, but aim to give it a miss most of the time.
- Seek stillness: Whether you meditate, enjoy yoga or simply listen to soothing music, doesn’t matter, as long as you are taking out some quality ‘me’ time just to unwind and ‘be’.
- Cut Chemical Exposure
We live in a big chemical soup. This means we are exposed to chemicals daily through food, outgassing from furniture and paint or are absorption from cosmetics on our skin. Many of these chemicals act like xenoestrogens in the body, which means your body treats them like estrogen. This can tip you over into estrogen dominance or add to an existing ED problem.
For Breast Protection:
- Clean with kitchen ingredients: Women who report the highest use of cleaning products to control issues like mold and air freshness may have an increased risk of breast cancer. Instead, use ingredients like lemon, oil of cloves and vinegar when cleaning your home. I offer DIY All-Purpose recipes in the free detox workshop called “7 Toxins That Sabotage Your Hormones”.
- Throw away the insecticide and use a fly swat instead; women with greater pesticide levels in their body have been shown to be at greater risk of breast cancer.
- Use low chemical cosmetics: I talk more about how chemicals in make-up can cause hormones imbalance (and even earlier menopause) here.
- Cool Internal Inflammation
If you’re often stressed, eating foods you shouldn’t, skimping on sleep and throwing back a few wines, you could be burning out on the inside. Internal inflammation is one of the body’s first defense mechanisms, for example, producing a fever when you’re fighting a virus or bacteria. But repeated lifestyle fall-out can cause your body to go into self-defense 24/7, causing chronic low-grade inflammation which erodes your health.
Inflammatory chemicals such as C-reactive protein and cytokines are now known to lie at the heart of most health conditions such as heart attack, diabetes and arthritis. Cancer is one of their biggest knock-on effects. Inflammation also plays havoc with hormonal balance and it can even cause estrogen to become pro-inflammatory.
For Breast Protection
- Reduce pro-inflammatory food factors such as sugar, salt, refined carbs (e.g. white bread) and unhealthy fats, such as trans fats or fats that have been reheated, as their molecules can change shape.
- Home-cook your meals. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen. Take a look at some of my simple recipes for estrogen-balancing meals.
- Pick proteins carefully: Eat fish at least three times a week – it is high in omega 3s, which help fight inflammation. Cut right back on processed meats like bacon, which should be eaten no more than once a week. For an excellent supplement, try our very own Hormone Balance Nutritionals
Try this: Essential Omegas
- Don’t let the scales creep up. The more weight you gain the more your fat cells release inflammatory chemicals and estrogen.
- Kick bad habits such as smoking, stressing out, drinking and overdoing alcohol or illegal/prescription drugs, which all cause inflammation.
- Treat inflammation-causing chronic conditions like food intolerance, acid reflux and gum disease.
- Avoid antibiotics: Chronic or prolonged use of antibiotics is linked to increased breast cancer risk, so rest up when you’re unwell, to avoid symptoms worsening and avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
- Address molds and other environmental triggers like dust, which can prompt inflammatory reactions via your respiratory system.
- Move Every Day
Women who workout are more protected against breast cancer, though it’s not clear whether the benefit stems from lowered weight, increased metabolism or how exercise impacts on hormones like insulin. Exercise appears to change estrogen metabolism by promoting good estrogen metabolites and reducing the less healthy forms in premenopausal women.
- Mix it up: Over the week, rotate some cycling and swimming with yoga and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), so that you include exercises to boost aerobic capacity, flexibility and stamina.
- Just do a little: You don’t have to be an Olympian to enjoy the health perks of exercise. Regular physical activity, mild or intense, before or after menopause helps to reduce breast cancer risk.
- Limit excessive exercise. Running a marathon can suppress immune function and promote inflammatory chemicals such as Interkelukin-1 and 6, which encourage tumor growth and autoimmune diseases.
- Stop Smoking
That means you should avoid smoking dope too. Smoking messes with your balance of estrogen and progesterone and can cause earlier signs of menopause. Nicotine can also lead to mammary cell changes, which appear to promote the growth of cancerous tumors. Many of the over 4,000 other chemicals in cigarettes have also shown to be carcinogenic.
Compared with non-smokers, postmenopausal women who smoke or used to smoke have up to a 16% higher risk of developing breast cancer shows research published in the British Medical Journal. The same research also showed that people exposed to side stream smoke have a 9% increased breast cancer risk just from breathing in that toxic smoke. And non-smoking women exposed to passive smoke for more than ten years in childhood, at work or at home (through a smoking partner), had a 32% excess risk of breast cancer.
For Breast Protection:
- Quit Smoking: I used to be a smoker who quit many times but always went back to it. Hypnosis was what helped me kick it for good and I highly recommend it. Different people quit differently but I need you to know that it’s possible, just try various methods to find out what resonates with you.
- Move away from smokers: You don’t need to make a scene. Just say the smoke can bring on hayfever-like symptoms and move away until the person is finished. If you live with a smoker, make a firm rule that they step outside when they light up.
- Avoid Birth Control Pills
Yes, I know it seems very convenient to take a seemingly harmless pill to prevent pregnancy. But think about what it is doing to your body. The birth control pill tricks your body into thinking it is pregnant most of the time. That means that instead of getting the dips in your menstrual cycle where estrogen drops, your estrogen levels remain high all the time. This is a classic way many women first develop estrogen dominance. It’s hardly surprising then that according to the National Cancer Institute, the birth control pill increases breast cancer risk.
For Breast Protection:
- Use condoms or a diaphragm for contraception.
- Learn about the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)
- Research various fertility monitors like Lady Comp.
Your body will thank you.
- Sleep Soundly
Less sleep means higher hunger, elevated insulin and blood glucose levels and weight gain. I explain this in greater depth in this article.
These impacts are all bad news for your hormones. When you’re not sleeping well, you suffer adrenal exhaustion which then depletes you of progesterone and this is a potent cause of ED.
For Breast Protection:
- Nod off earlier: Women who get less than six to seven hours of sleep or less a night have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to 2008 Japanese research.
- Avoid shift work: Shift work has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, so if you are in a career like nursing or flight attendance, consider retraining or looking for a related job that doesn’t require night shifts, such as training others in your field.
- Check out my 10 Surprising Sleep Hacks to boost sleep quality and duration.
- Minimize Lights At Night
Light at night can bump up breast cancer risk. This is most likely because it messes with your production of hormones, particularly melatonin, the sleep hormone. Chronic issues with getting to sleep can then lead to stress that reduces levels of progesterone, increasing risk of estrogen dominance.
For Breast Protection:
- Light some candles: Enjoy the soft relaxing glow, which will also help you unwind at the end of the day.
- Turn off computer/television monitors as early as possible in the evening. If you need to use them, keep them on a low light setting.
- Cut the light spill from other homes or street lights with thick blinds or curtains.
- Minimize or Modify Use of HRT
An overview of almost 40,000 menopausal women by the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK in 2016, has found that using combined Hormone Replacement Therapy can triple the risk of breast cancer, and that risk goes up the longer the HRT is used.
- Try natural therapies: Many women find they get great relief from issues like hot flushes through non-drug therapies like acupuncture, herbs and diet changes. My free workshop “How to Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones” would be a good starting point.
- Address hormonal balance through choosing the right foods for your body and avoiding foods like caffeine and sugar, which can exacerbate menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.
- Take HRT for a limited time: Breast cancer risks go up when HRT is used for more than 5 years and are lower if used for 2 years or less.
- Speak to your doctor about adding bio-identical progesterone to oppose estradiol.
- Use an estrogen only HRT which appears to carry less risk.
Studies show the risk of breast cancer is higher in women who use combined HRT (estrogen and progestin).
- As a last resort, talk to your doctor about switching to bio-identical hormones.
- Stress Less, Cuddle More
Is “I’m stressed” or “I haven’t had a minute to myself” your daily mantra? Do you often feel so pushed and rushed that you’re close to tears or feel you’re just not coping? In our modern world, being stressed to the max is normal for many women. But the fallout from adrenal hormones can do your health a great deal of harm (and it can stop you from reaching your healthy and ideal body weight).
Blame it on cortisol, a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Not only does cortisol cause fat storage, it also uses the same metabolic pathway as progesterone. As it is released during your fight and flight response, your body thinks you’re in danger, so naturally your body favors the cortisol, which may lead you to have lower progesterone levels. This can then cause estrogen dominance.
For Breast Protection
- Cuddle up: Snuggly, intimate and life affirming, a cuddle can stimulate the production of a hormone called oxytocin, which helps reduce blood pressure and lowers your levels of stress hormones, which compromise your immunity. Enjoy a big bear hug with your partner before you both leave for work, hug your girlfriend when saying hello, enjoy a hug with your young kids on your lap and give teens a quick hug – even if you have to slap their back so they don’t cringe!
- Soak up some sun: Sun exposure can help increase serotonin levels, boosting your mood and helping you cope better with stressful days. Aim for 10 minutes of exposure morning or afternoon to arms and legs (without sunscreen).
- Slow down: Learn to say ‘no’, delegate and leave the washing up until you’ve had a break. During the day, try to walk and not sprint through every task or you will burn yourself out.
Signs Of Breast Cancer
Take time to get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts while showering, dressing or looking in the mirror so you can detect any changes that may indicate cancer such as:
- A lump, lumpiness or thickening.
- Changes to the nipple such as a change in shape, crusting, a sore or an ulcer, redness or a nipple that turns in (becomes inverted) when it used to stick out.
- Changes to the skin of the breast such as dimpling of the skin, unusual redness or other color changes.
- Change in the shape or size of the breast – either an increase or decrease.
- Unusual discharge from the nipple without squeezing.
- Swelling or discomfort in the armpit.
- Persistent, unusual pain not related to your normal monthly cycle, which remains after a menstrual period and occurs in one breast only.
Though not necessarily cancer, these signs should be checked by your doctor without delay.
Other resources I’ve put together this October for you:
- Check out my collection here of estrogen-detoxifying recipes.
- The Pink Ribbons (and Komen) – True Help or Scam?
- Interview with Dr. V, the founder of Breast Cancer Conqueror
- Interview with Dr. Mache Seibel, the author of “Estrogen Window” on when do hormones cause cancers and when they do not.
- Interview with Kirstin Nussgruber, the “healthiest sick person” and patient advocate who beat a very aggressive breast cancer not once but twice.