October – the month that everything is pink.
Grocery stores, fast food restaurants, even sports teams are going pink to help raise awareness at the second most common cancer to affect American women. The problem? Everyone already knows about breast cancer. With over 200,000 women being diagnosed in 2017 alone, we are far past the point of needing to raise awareness. In fact, breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, and the number one type of cancer that kills women. At this stage, most people either know someone who has fought this disease, or have been in the battle themselves. Awareness isn’t what we need. What we need is a cure. What we need is prevention.
Mammograms remain one of the most common forms of breast cancer screening, with 80% of American women, over the age of 40, having had a mammogram in the past two years. But the problem is that, not only do mammograms not prevent breast cancer (they can only screen for it), some evidence is showing that the radiation exposure may actually cause it. Because of the way a mammogram works, a woman who has one done is exposed to the same amount of radiation as about 1,000 chest x-rays. The Institute of Medicine’s report on causes of breast cancer in the environment estimated that nearly 3,000 breast cancer diagnoses per year actually stem from medical radiation. So, in a world surrounded by cancer, are there really ways to help lower your risk of developing it? The answer is yes, and doing so may not be as hard as you think.
Stop Using Antiperspirants
For most people, applying deodorant is a typical part of maintaining daily hygiene. I know, for me, as long as the stick smelled good and did it’s job, that’s all that I really cared about. That was until I did a little reading about the true horrors lurking within that little tube. Is it really possible that by keeping your sweat under control, and maintaining a pleasant odor, you’re increasing your risks of developing breast cancer? Science is beginning to show that just may be the case. Deodorants that contain antiperspirants, or components that help prevent you from sweating, work because of their main ingredient: aluminum salts. When the skin becomes moist with sweat, these salts dissolve and form a gel-like substance, which covers the sweat gland and prevents more from being released. It’s been found that this aluminum actually is absorbed by the body, and deposited into the breast tissue. By using a special pump to suction fluid out of the breasts through the nipples, researchers learned that the levels of aluminum able to be suctioned were significantly higher in women suffering from breast cancer when compared to the nipple aspirate of healthy women. As scientists researched the locations of tumors in women diagnosed with breast cancer, an alarming discovery was made, “a disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant of the breast“, and this supported evidence that locally applied cosmetic chemicals played a role in the development of breast cancer.
One of the main reasons that antiperspirants have been found to affect breast tissue this way is because aluminum is known to have a destructive effect on genetic material, actually altering a cell’s DNA. Another study examined the effects of aluminum salts on breast tissue in mice, and demonstrated that the concentrations in the range often found in human breast tissue had the capability to fully transform the cells. This ability enabled these altered cells to form tumors which metastasized to other areas in the body.
As more and more people are realizing the dangers behind aluminum containing deodorants, cleaner brands are beginning to pop up. I, personally like Primal Pit Paste.
You can find it here.
Rethink Your Birth Control Choice
Oftentimes, women are told that birth control actually reduces their risk of cancer, but the truth of the matter is – the science behind this is completely undecided. This is because there are numerous different types of birth control options; but more than that, there are countless types of cancer. So, while some oral contraceptives have displayed a potential ability to reduce a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer, a type of cancer that typically plagues women over 60 years old, these same types of birth control, as well as others, like the IUD and injection, have been shown to increase her risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, birth control is recognized as a known human carcinogen. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, women taking birth control pills have a 20-30% increased risk of developing breast cancer, than women who have never taken the pill. By increasing the levels of estrogen in the body, and indirectly leading to weight gain, birth control pills actually stimulate tumor growth in the breast tissue. And unfortunately, oral contraceptives are not the only type of birth control to impact the risk of developing cancer. While this issue still has yet to be investigated on a deeper level, studies are beginning to show that injectable forms of contraceptives, like Depo Provera, also heighten a woman’s likelihood of developing breast cancer. The same results can also be seen in women with IUDs, especially those who use it more than once.
Everyone knows that physical exercise is not only vital, but also healing to the human body. In women, weight has been proven to impact her risk of developing breast cancer, with those who fall into a higher BMI category of being overweight or obese at a higher risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, especially after menopause, can greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer, considering nearly half of all cases of breast cancer among older women can be attributed to their weight. One of the most important ways to maintain a healthy body weight is by staying physically active, a component alone which helps lower the risk of developing this type of cancer. In one study, researchers examined over 1 million participants and discovered that, regardless of body size or smoking history, women who spent some of their leisure time engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity suffered lower rates of breast cancer. Even brisk walking an equivalent of four or five hours per week could significantly reduce a woman’s chances of suffering a breast cancer diagnosis.
Limit Alcohol Intake
When women consume alcohol, the way their body metabolizes estrogen begins to change. By increasing levels of estrogen in the body, and damaging DNA, regular alcohol consumption has been found to increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. The best, and safest, course of action is to avoid alcohol completely – but in those times when you just really need a glass of wine (because kids are hard!), it’s important to limit your intake to only 1 or 2 drinks per week. One study concluded that for each alcoholic beverage consumed per day, a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer increased by 7%, and that those who had 2-3 drinks per day had a 20% increased risk, when compared to women who didn’t drink any alcohol at all.
Breastfeed as Long as You Can
During pregnancy, so many women are encouraged to breastfeed as long as possible, because of the endless benefits that breastmilk provide for the baby. Unfortunately though, the insane positive advantages for mama are often left out and overlooked, especially when relating to breast cancer. For many years though, researchers have recognized a potential link between breastfeeding, and a lower risk of developing breast cancer. And, the more children you breastfeed, the lower your risk. One study concluded that in women who breastfed four or more children, their chances of developing breast cancer later in life were reduced by over 60%, when compared with women who never breastfed at all. A 43% decrease in risk could be seen in women who breastfed just one or two children. And, the longer a woman is able to breastfeed, the lower her chances of developing cancer.
While scientists are still investigating the role genetics play in breast cancer, and its development, there are still lifestyle choices that can be made to reduce ones chances of abnormal cell growth in the breasts. Limiting use of chemically-laden cosmetic products around the breasts, reducing estrogen in the body, and using the tatas for what they were made to do, together, could potentially make a woman’s chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer virtually disappear. We have the awareness, now it’s time to find the cause and the cure.
Until next time,
1. American Cancer Society How Common is Breast Cancer?
2. Taylor Francis Online Levonorgestrel-Releasing Intrauterine System and the Risk of Breast Cancer: A Nationwide Cohort Study
3. KFF Percent of Women Aged 40 and Older Who Report Having had a Mammogram Within the Past Two Years, by Race/Ethnicity
Percent of Women Age 40 and Older Who Report Having Had a Mammogram Within the Past Two Years, by Race/Ethnicity
4. International Journal of Health Services Danger and Unreliability of Mammography
5. Institute of Medicine Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach
6. NCBI Analysis of Aluminum Content and Iron Homeostasis in Nipple Aspirate Fluids from Healthy Women and Breast Cancer-Affected Patients
7. NCBI Aluminum, Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer
8. International Journal of Cancer Aluminum Chloride Promotes Tumorigenesis and Metastasis in Normal Murine Mammary Gland Epithelial Cells
9. Oxford Academic Oral Contraceptives as Ovarian Cancer Prevention: In the News
10. American Cancer Society Known and Probably Human Carcinogens
11. Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Birth Control Pills
12. NCBI The Role of Oral Contraceptive Pills on Increased Risk of Breast Cancer in Iranian Populations: A Meta-Analysis
13. PLOS One Injectable and Oral Contraceptive Use and Cancers of the Breast, Cervix, Ovary, and Endometrium, in Black South African Women: Case-Control Study
14. NCBI Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Relation to Body Mass Index in the Million Women Study: Cohort Study
15. NCBI Pooled Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies on Height, Weight, and Breast Cancer Risk
16. NCBI Physical Activity and Risk of Breast Cancer Among Menopausal Women
17. NCBI Physical Activity and Risk of Breast Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies
18. JAMA Network Alcohol and Breast Cancer in Women: A Pooled Analysis of Cohort Studies
19. NCBI Alcohol, Tobacco, and Breast Cancer – Collaborative Reanalysis of Data from 53 Epidemiological Studies, Including 58,515 Women with Breast Cancer and 95,067 Women Without the Disease
20. NCBI Breastfeeding and the Risk of Breast Cancer: A Metaanalysis of Published Studies
21. Oxford Academic History of Breast-Feeding in Relation to Breast Cancer Risk: a Review of the Epidemiological Literature
22. Breastcancer.org Breastfeeding Longer Seems to Help Protect Against Breast Cancer