Category Archives: Breast Cancer Risk Reduction

Healthy Strategies to Avoid Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome

Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen
Image Source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen

Healthy Strategies to Avoid Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome

As a follow up to my article Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes and Breast Cancer Risk, today I am providing you with some healthy strategies to avoid these conditions.  Be prepared, this is going to be one long post but full of great information on how to avoid insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, both of which are risk factors for breast cancer.

If you have read my article (link above) you will know that having diabetes gives you an increased risk of breast cancer. Conversely, having breast cancer puts you at a higher risk for diabetes.  It is clear that blood sugar problems are creating many other health problems for us. By incorporating positive lifestyle changes, however, you can dramatically reduce your risk of getting the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer.

Most of the strategies in this list revolve around attaining and keeping a healthy weight. If you will recall from last week’s article, one of the tell-tale risk factors for metabolic syndrome is having a waist circumference of over 35 inches (88.9 cm).  An overabundance of belly fat (having an “apple” shape) is not something you should be accepting and living with and I apologize if that sounds harsh, but it really is THAT important. So without further ado, here are the things you can do to help yourself.

Get Your Insulin Levels Tested

Go to your doctor and get your insulin levels tested.  I recommend doing this at the very outset of your “get healthy” program, because then you will know exactly what you are dealing with.  Get your doctor to do a fasting glucose test where you fast for 10-12 hours prior to having a small amount of blood drawn. This is a very effective way to see what is happening in your body with regard to insulin.

Eat A Healthy Diet

Simply by reducing your calorie/kilojoule intake is a good start toward your weight loss goals.  More specifically I recommend:

Detox Your Body From Sugar.  The first thing necessary for you to lose the belly fat will be that you will need to educate yourself on exactly how many foods contain added sugars.  Things which at first glance look like they should be good for you, such as boxed cereals, fruit juices, crackers, yogurt, canned soups, sliced bread, even energy bars.  The average diet in England, America and Australia contains about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day and it can be higher than that in less developed countries where American food has been introduced.  Our consumption of sugar has risen 28 percent since 1983!  No wonder we are in trouble.  So how much sugar is it safe to consume? About 4-7 tsp per day, max.  The first three days will be the worst for sugar cravings but once you get past that, it becomes easier and easier to avoid sugar.

Become A Label Reader. Pay attention to words in the ingredients list like sugar – well that one is obvious but the rest may not be – glucose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, galactose, lactose, malt syrup, cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, cane juice solids, cane juice crystals, dextrin, maltodextrin, barley malt, beet sugar, caramel, buttered syrup, carob syrup, date sugar, diatase, diatastic malt, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, dehydrated fruit juice, fruit juice crystals, golden syrup, turbinado, sorghum syrup, refiner’s syrup and ethyl maltol.  If the product has any of these in it, avoid those products like the plague, they are all sugar in disguise.  We need to stop eating these things and the only way we stop it is with our pocketbooks.  It’s simple – we quit buying these products for any reason and they stop producing them due to lack of interest.

Foods To Exclude.  Reducing your consumption of sugar and other carbohydrates is the absolute best way to lose belly fat, reduce weight and decrease insulin resistance problems, even better than cutting fat from your diet.  Carbs come from many different places, some of which are rather surprising. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

All of the forms of sugar listed above
Alcohol
Breads, tortillas, baked goods, pasta, pizza, rice
Crackers, chips, pretzels
Cereals
Fried Foods
Fruit – Yes, fruit – although in one respect fruit is healthy for you due to the phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber, if you are trying to lose weight, you must reduce your consumption of fruit because it is high in fructose. If you are struggling with insulin resistance, keep your daily fructose intake to less than 15 grams or less.  A small amount of fruit is okay – for instance 10 sweet cherries is about 4 grams of fructose.  An apple is 9.5 grams, 1 cup of blueberries is 7.4. Get yourself a handy chart (Dr Mercola has one, see reference below) and keep an eye on it for fructose content.

Foods To Include. These are the foods that will help you stay healthy. Make sure to include plenty of these:
All vegetables except corn or potatoes (sweet potatoes are better)
Fresh juices made from mostly vegetables
Fish, especially deep sea fish
Grass Fed Organic Meat
Organic Poultry
Eggs
Nuts, Seeds
Healthy Fats & Oils (like olive, coconut, butter)
Organic Cheese
Small amount of Legumes (yes they are carbs but read below)

It may sound as though that does not leave you with much but that is just not true. Is it going to be easy?  No.  But you will have a wide variety of food still to enjoy and you can eat plenty of them, as many as you like.  Along with decreasing inflammation in the body, eating this way provides you with energy, ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber. It may take more forethought and food preparation but it is well worth the effort and your life may depend upon it.

Loads of Healthy Eating Tips

Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood sugar in a more healthy range. Eating large meals can flood the bloodstream with glucose and insulin. Experiment with this until you find what helps you you feel your best, but generally eating six small meals is much better for your metabolism than three large meals.

Beans/Legumes are carbohydrates but they are one of the better choices because of their fiber content and because the carbs in legumes are more slowly digested and will not spike your blood sugars quite so high.

Foods high in magnesium help to decrease the incidence of metabolic syndrome, so be sure to include lots of leafy green vegetables like lettuce, kale and spinach as well as almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans, and halibut.

Instead of a sandwich, roll up your meat and cheese in a big lettuce leaf.

Instead of pasta, learn to use a spiralizer and create pasta-like strands from your veggies – the raw food websites will show you how it’s done (see below for some good raw food website recommendations).  You can create some really delicious meals with raw food and they are full of plenty of natural vitamins and living enzymes.  Try a new raw food recipe or two every week.

Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. It helps to increase your metabolism, it helps you flush out toxins and keeps you feeling a little more full for a longer period of time.  Sugar cravings often occur when a person is dehydrated, so drinking plenty of filtered water just makes sense.

Specific Foods That Make A Difference

Carrots And Other Orange, Yellow & Red Veggies – A Japanese study done with over 1,000 people who were followed over a ten year period indicated that for those whose diet included plenty of carotenoids (naturally occurring pigments in brightly colored vegetables like carrots and other yellow, orange and red veggies) eating this way was associated with a much decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome 1.

Cinnamon – Research shows that cinnamon helps to transport glucose into the cells, thus reducing blood sugar levels.  One study in particular indicated that simply drinking cinnamon tea after a meal helped to lower blood glucose levels. 2   Ordinary cinnamon, exactly like the one you can get at your local supermarket, is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to help control blood sugar levels.  You can add it to green juices, take it in a tea, sprinkle it on foods or take it in capsules.

Cayenne pepper – Contains capsaicin, a phytochemical known to have anti-inflammatory and insulin lowering properties.  A study on women with gestational diabetes mellitus revealed that ingestion of capsaicin improved hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia 3.  Capsaicin is also known to help boost metabolism, improve blood circulation, and is even associated with decreasing blood pressure.  One 2015 study indicated that eating African bird’s eye chili (peri peri) also resulted in decreased insulin concentrations on overweight individuals. 4  Cayenne pepper is available either fresh or dried (ground spice), and in capsule form.  You can make cayenne pepper tea by mixing about one quarter to one half teaspoon of cayenne pepper steeped in a cup of hot water. You can add it to your food, stir it into fresh juices or tea.  Just be careful – use too much and it can give you a stomach ache so you may need to play around with the quantity you use. Also if you are on blood thinning medications, do not use cayenne pepper.

Green tea – Did you know that green tea can helps you lose belly fat?  It contains a phytochemical known as catechin which boosts metabolism. One study demonstrated that people drinking green tea and doing strength training had significant increases in resting metabolic rate, lean body mass and muscle strength, and significant decreases in body fat, triglycerides, and waist circumference as compared to those who did not drink the green tea but partook in the same exercise. 5 Green tea is also full of antioxidants which have been proven to be beneficial for metabolic syndrome.

Increase Physical Activity

If you tend to be sedentary please know that you are putting yourself at a much higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.  By increasing your level of exercise, you are not only boosting your metabolism, you are also increasing your immune system and decreasing stress levels.  Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on at least five days of the week. Try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time – standing up or engaging in a little vigorous activity (running in place or going for a 1-2 minute walk) has more benefits than you can imagine.

Find something you like to do that keeps you moving.  Get some exercise DVDs that are geared toward gentle movement such as yoga. Try Pilates.  Get out and walk every day for 30 minutes. Ride a bicycle.  Go hiking with a friend.  If you don’t have a dog, borrow your neighbor’s dog (with their permission of course) and take it for a walk.  Try a rebounder (mini trampoline – great for the lymphatic system). Take a dance class.  But find something you like to do and become more active.  It will be one of the best things you ever do for yourself, I promise.

Stop Smoking

Smoking cigarettes actually increases insulin resistance and worsens the health consequences of metabolic syndrome. Please do find a way to stop and if you need help, get help. See a therapist who does hypnosis, see your doctor for a nicotine patch, but please stop smoking.

Supplements That Make A Difference

Chromium – a mineral required by the body to metabolize sugars and fats. In its absence, cells can become insensitive to insulin but with it, insulin becomes much more efficient at converting glucose to energy for the cells.  It most likely will not help you if your pancreas has ceased to manufacture insulin and it doesn’t appear to improve the efficiency of injected insulin but one study done with patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus demonstrated that the patients who took chromium enjoyed significantly reduced fasting glucose concentrations 6. The recommended dosage is 200 mcg of chromium per day.

Coenzyme Q10 – In addition to being protective for the heart and blood vessels, a brand new study indicates that 100 mg of CoQ10 supplementation for people with metabolic syndrome resulted in a significant reduction in serum insulin levels7.  CoQ10 also slows degeneration of brain and nerve cells and is associated with anti-aging.  Recommended dosage: 100 mg per day

Alpha Lipoic Acid – One Italian study examined postmenopausal women at high risk of developing breast cancer due to family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or personal history of ductal hyperplasia.  The women were asked to follow a low calorie diet and were given alpha lipoic acid combined with inositol (part of the B complex group of vitamins) and followed for 6 months.  It was discovered that compared to the placebo group, those taking the combination of alpha lipoic acid and inositol had lower triglycerides, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced blood insulin levels, increased HDL (the good) cholesterol, and less belly fat 8.  Recommended dosage: 500 mg alpha lipoic acid, 300 mg to 2000 mg inositol per day.

Pycnogenol (maritime pine bark extract) – A study reported in 2013 involving 64 people aged 45-55 years, all of whom had the five risk factors for metabolic syndrome, were given 150 mg daily of pycnogenol while another group of 66 people with the same risk profiles were used as controls.  Compared to the control group, those taking pycnogenol showed decreased waist circumference, lower triglycerides, lower blood pressure, decreased fasting glucose and plasma free radicals, and increased HDL cholesterol levels 9. Recommended Dosage: 150 mg daily

Vitamin D3 – We have long been told that people who are obese have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.  But a 2015 Spanish study found that people with low levels of vitamin D may have a  higher risk for type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, regardless of whether they were obese or thin 10.  Find out what your vitamin D levels are and if you are found to be low, supplementing with 5,000 iu of vitamin D3 daily just makes good sense.

Mind/Body Strategies

It is really important to take care of your stress levels in positive ways because when you are stressed, your body releases cortisol.  Some health gurus refer to cortisol as the “death” hormone because of its bad influence on the systems of the body.  Cortisol also encourages your body to store excess fat in the lower abdomen!

To handle stress more effectively than resorting to sugar, alcohol, tobacco, or television, try calming breathing exercises and meditation.  Meditation is easy to do, completely free and comes without side effects other than feelings of calm, peace, and serenity.  If you have tried meditation in the past and found it too difficult, or found your mind straying, you might like to try my how-to-meditate course.

Research shows that when you are stressed you are more likely to eat or drink or smoke something that is harmful to your health.  Meditation helps to calm your nervous system and helps you to get to sleep and to also get a deeper quality of REM sleep.  Did you know that missing just one night of sleep can induce insulin resistance?  11

Meditation does take a bit of practice but so does anything worth learning.  It only takes about three weeks to change a bad habit (like resorting to alcohol to manage stress) into a good one (like meditation).

Essential Oils That May Make A Difference

Essential oils may also be of assistance with easing the problems associated with metabolic syndrome.  At the very least, essential oils help relieve the stress that may raise blood glucose levels.  But recent research – so far done only on animals – shows that certain plant compounds in essential oils may also have an effect on lowering blood sugar.

Fennel essential oil – contains a compound known as trans-anethole and animal studies indicate trans anethole was found to be beneficial in cases of hyperglycemia by regulating key enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. 12

Cinnamon bark essential oil – research done on mice with type II diabetes indicated cinnamon oil significantly decreased fasting blood glucose concentration. Also serum triglycerides were reduced, while HDL cholesterol levels were significantly increased and glucose tolerance was improved. 13

I would not recommend using essential oils on their own to combat metabolic syndrome but in combination with all of the strategies listed above, the research indicates essential oils could be beneficial.  I would only use them externally on the soles of the feet, as the feet have large pores and the oils can be easily absorbed there.

I suspect there are a good many more essential oils than what I have listed here, and as I locate them and find the research, I will add to this section.

References:

1. High serum carotenoids associated with lower risk for the metabolic syndrome and its components among Japanese subjects: Mikkabi cohort study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26365147

2.  Effect of Cinnamon Tea on Postprandial Glucose Concentration – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516848/

3.  Capsaicin-containing chili improved postprandial hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and fasting lipid disorders in women with gestational diabetes mellitus and lowered the incidence of large-for-gestational-age newborns – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25771490

4.  The metabolic effects of a commercially available chicken peri-peri (African bird’s eye chilli) meal in overweight individuals – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26360825

5.  The Effects of Green Tea Consumption and Resistance Training on Body Composition and Resting Metabolic Rate in Overweight or Obese Women – http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2012.0062

6.  Beneficial effects of oral chromium picolinate supplementation on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized clinical study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26302914

7.  The effects of coenzyme Q10 administration on glucose homeostasis parameters, lipid profiles, biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with metabolic syndrome – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385228

8.  Combination of inositol and alpha lipoic acid in metabolic syndrome-affected women: a randomized placebo-controlled trial – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3765513/

9.  Pycnogenol® supplementation improves health risk factors in subjects with metabolic syndrome – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23359520

10. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and adipose tissue vitamin D receptor gene expression: relationship with obesity and type 2 diabetes – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25706239

11. One sleepless night can induce insulin resistance in healthy people –
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505091632.htm

12. Trans-anethole, a terpenoid ameliorates hyperglycemia by regulating key enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25708856

13. Antidiabetic effects of cinnamon oil in diabetic KK-Ay mice – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20561948

Cut Down On Carbs to Reduce Body Fat – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/08/cut-down-on-carbs-to-reduce-body-fat.aspx

Low Carbohydrate Recipes:
http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/collections/low+carb
http://www.atkins.com/recipes
http://authoritynutrition.com/101-healthy-low-carb-recipes/

Raw Food Recipes:
http://ohsheglows.com/categories/recipes-2/
http://rawfoodrecipes.com/
https://therawfoodkitchen.com.au/raw-food-recipes/
http://www.rawguru.com/raw-food-recipes/

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

 

Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes And Breast Cancer Risk

 

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / Tuomas Lehtinen

Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes And Breast Cancer Risk

What do you suppose sugar, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and breast cancer have in common? They are all intertwined.  I have recently been reading quite a few studies which indicate that women with diabetes are at a higher risk for breast cancer.  There also exist some studies which show the opposite to be true – that postmenopausal women who develop breast cancer have a higher risk of also developing diabetes, as do women with BRCA1/2 gene mutations, and those who take tamoxifen. Clearly, the way we eat is creating huge problems for health in many ways and with this article I hope to draw attention to the problem and explain why it’s happening.  In my next article, I will make some recommendations on what we can do about it.

Those With Diabetes Have Increased Risk Of Breast Cancer

A 2015 study done in Canada indicates that women with diabetes not only have a higher risk of breast cancer, they also are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. 1 The study analyzed data from 2007 to 2012 for over 38,000 women who were between the ages of 20 to 105 diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.  It was discovered that nearly 16 percent had diabetes.  The study further revealed that women with diabetes were 14 percent more likely to have stage II breast cancer, 21 percent more likely to have stage III, and 16 percent more likely to have stage IV breast cancer.  The most disturbing parts of the study, however, were that the five-year survival rate for these breast cancer patients with diabetes was a whopping 15 percent lower than for those without diabetes, and that the breast cancer patients with diabetes were more likely to have larger tumors compared to those without diabetes.

Researchers have also discovered that for people with pre-existing cases of diabetes who were also diagnosed with breast cancer, this unfortunate population had a 40 percent increased risk of death over those who did not have diabetes. 2

Those With Breast Cancer Have Increased Risk of Diabetes

A 2013 Canadian study set out to discover whether postmenopausal women who develop breast cancer had a higher incidence of diabetes than those who do not develop breast cancer. 3 The study found that the risk of diabetes among breast cancer survivors, compared to women without breast cancer, began to increase two years after diagnosis. Interestingly, for the women with breast cancer who also had chemotherapy, the risk of developing diabetes was highest in the first two years after diagnosis – these women had a huge 24 percent increased risk, which then declined to an eight percent increased risk after ten years.

One 2012 study indicated that taking tamoxifen, one of the most often prescribed hormonal treatments for breast cancer, was associated with an increased risk for diabetes. 4 Researchers stated that women taking tamoxifen had a  “significantly higher risk of diabetes” compared to those who did not take it.

There is an increased risk for developing diabetes among those with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations as well.  A 2011 study reported that for those women who carried the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation and diagnosed with breast cancer, risk of developing diabetes doubled in the 15 year period after diagnosis, and if they had a high body mass index, this was associated with an even higher risk. 5

We Clearly Have A Problem

It is no secret that our society has a big problem with obesity and making bad food choices, which is creating problems for us such as insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, changes in hormone levels, type II diabetes and breast and other cancers.  However, it is not just obesity that puts a person at a higher risk for these problems. One 2015 study indicated that high insulin levels were being discovered in postmenopausal women who were not obese and that factor put them at a higher risk for breast cancer than for those who were obese but had normal insulin levels. 6

Experts say that it is the relationship of sugar to higher insulin levels and related growth factors that may be influencing cancer cell growth more than anything. Insulin receptors are plentiful on breast cancer cells 7, making them respond more than normal cells to the growth promotion properties of insulin.

The above studies make it clear that there is a correlation between high levels of insulin, diabetes and breast cancer and that if you have both breast cancer and high insulin levels or diabetes, your chances of survival to old age are reduced by as much as 40 percent. Take heart, though, there are  many things we can do about this.

Symptoms Of Metabolic Syndrome

The symptoms of metabolic syndrome are often very quiet and easily ignored.  People with metabolic syndrome may have a tendency to be somewhat overweight, especially around the belly.  Other tell-tale signs are (for women) ovarian cysts (metabolic syndrome is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome) and irregular periods.  Men and women can both experience increased incidence of skin tags, benign growths on their skin that usually appear on the neck and back and in places where skin tends to stay moist such as under the breast and underarms. In addition, they can have a darker pigmentation or discoloration of the skin (called acanthosis nigricans) over the back of the neck and underarms.  People with metabolic syndrome also tend to have elevated blood pressure, elevated levels of triglycerides in their blood and lower levels of the good kind of cholesterol, HDL.

Some Anatomy & Physiology

If you have been reading my posts, or indeed, any website dedicated to helping people get well after cancer, you will have read that cancer cells feed on sugar. All you need to do is Google the term “sugar feeds cancer” and you will get over 4 million results. The “sugar feeds cancer” rule, however, is only part of the story.  It’s still good advice to avoid sugar because it is implicated with inflammation and acidity for the body and it undermines the immune system, all of which are conditions in which cancer loves to thrive.  But it’s more complicated than that.

All cells, including cancer cells, depend on sugar being in the bloodstream for energy.  I’m going to share some basic anatomy and physiology with you, because if you understand what’s going on in your body, you can better understand why high blood sugar levels (and thus high insulin levels) are to be avoided.

All of the food we eat – the protein, the fiber, the fats, and the carbohydrates — gets broken down in the digestive process into smaller proteins, micronutrients and sugars (glucose). Our bodies use the nutrients to fuel cellular metabolism, rebuild cells that have been used up, and for immune function.

The body’s basic fuel is glucose, which is carried by the bloodstream and ushered into individual cells by the action of insulin, a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to rising blood sugar levels.  Insulin attaches to and signals the cells of the body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream.  Even muscle and fat cells take up the glucose for use later.  Cells obtain energy immediately from the glucose or convert it to fat for long-term storage.

Our demand for fuel varies from moment to moment, but our brains require that our blood sugar levels be stable.  Insulin is responsible for getting the cells the energy they need without letting blood sugar levels dip too low.  The body monitors the sugar from what we have digested and what is in our blood, as well as what our cells are demanding, and a healthy body releases insulin in just the right amounts at just the right time.

So far so good?

The problem is that our metabolism evolved many eons ago when our diet consisted of more lean proteins and fats and many fewer carbohydrates. Our ancient ancestors went through periods of intermittent famine when food was scarce, and this is where the activity of insulin really shines. When plenty of food is available, insulin helps excess glucose be stored in fat and muscle cells, and during periods of famine when glucose levels are low, the body releases the glucose on an as-needed basis from fat and muscle.  These days, however, we do not suffer through periods of famine where food is scarce, so we tend to be overweight, have love handles, muffin tops etc and this is putting us at a higher risk for all kinds of problems.

Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome & Type II Diabetes

When people eat too many carbohydrates and this continues over a long period of time, they may become increasingly resistant to insulin.  Cells that are resistant to insulin are slower to bring sugar in, resulting in high blood sugar levels.  That makes the body respond by creating even more insulin and our bodies were not designed for such prolonged periods of high levels of insulin.  This disrupts cellular metabolism, is implicated in many inflammatory conditions, and it undermines the immune system.  The insulin-making cells of the pancreas can’t keep up with the demand for more insulin and the body eventually transitions from being insulin resistant to a condition known as metabolic syndrome, which can (if not halted) progress to type II diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, is the name given to a group of symptoms linked to insulin resistance. It is estimated that about 25 percent of the population in the USA (80 million people!) has at least three of the following symptoms:

1.  Too much belly fat – A waist circumference of more than 40 inches in men or 35 inches in women;
2.  High levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) – over 150 mg/dl
3.  Raised blood pressure – Over 130/85;
4.  Fasting glucose readings of over 110 mg/dl;
5.  Low levels of good cholesterol (HDL) – under 40 mg/dl for men and under 50 mg/dl for women.

Fortunately there are some things you can do about all of this and in my next article I will share what those things are.  See my article Healthy Strategies to Avoid Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome.

References:
1. The association between diabetes and breast cancer stage at diagnosis: a population-based study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25779100

2.  Association Between Metformin Therapy and Mortality After Breast Cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781496/

3.  Incidence of diabetes among postmenopausal breast cancer survivors – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23238788

4. Association between tamoxifen treatment and diabetes: a population-based study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21935915

5. Diabetes and Breast Cancer Among Women With BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutation – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3413077/

6. Breast cancer risk in metabolically healthy but overweight postmenopausal women – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25593034

7.  Elevated insulin receptor content in human breast cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC296896/

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

How To Do A Monthly Breast Self Exam

How To Do A Monthly Breast Self Exam

It has come to my attention that many women are not doing monthly breast self exams to check on the health of their breasts.  Ladies (and men – because men get breast cancer too), doing a monthly breast self exam is truly necessary. Don’t wait for your yearly check-up at the doctor’s office.  Get to know the look, feel and texture of your own breasts and nipples because self-monitoring may just save your life. Doing this definitely saved mine.

Why People Are Not Doing Monthly Breast Self Exams

Upon inquiring why people have not been doing monthly breast self exams (let’s call them BSEs for brevity), some say they just don’t know how to do them and would rather leave it up to their doctor to do.  Some are nervous because if they find lumps and bumps they spend a lot of time and energy worrying about them (and hey – we all do that, but the ostrich head-in-the-sand attitude will not help you!).  Some say they just do self exams occasionally when they think of it.  Regardless of your breast cancer status, regardless of your pre- or peri- or post-menopause status, you simply must do a monthly breast self-exam.  Yes, even if you’ve had a single or double mastectomy and I’ll tell you why later.

So let’s get started.  There are many different scenarios to be encountered these days, so I will try to cover them all.

The Pre- and Peri-Menopausal BSE

Women should start doing BSEs in their early 20’s.  Mothers, teach your daughters how to do them. Timing is the thing, it’s best to do the BSE toward the end of the menstrual period because that is the time when hormonal changes have the least influence on breast tissue, and the breasts are the least tender.  See video below for instructions on how to do a thorough self exam.

The Post-Menopausal BSE

This group of women is generally not as prone to breast tenderness so they can choose an easy day to remember – for instance if your birthday falls on the 18th of the month, do your BSE consistently on the 18th of each and every month.  See the video below for instructions on how to do a thorough self exam.

BSE After Breast Implants

Checking out your breasts when you have breast implants is imperative. You are checking not only the health of the breast but the viability of the implant.  Implants tend to push the breast tissue forward so it is easier to feel any abnormal changes in the breast. Choose your timing depending upon whether you are pre- or post-menopausal (see above).

If you do encounter any hardness in the breast area, it can sometimes be the result of capsular contracture, which can occur when a hard tissue capsule forms around the implant. It can feel small and barely noticeable, or it can become very painful and distort the shape of the breast. Let your doctor know if you see or feel any of these symptoms. For more information about capsular contracture, click here.

BSE After Lumpectomy and Flap Reconstruction Surgery

If you had a lumpectomy followed by a flap reconstruction, it is definitely necessary to do a monthly self exam.  Choose your timing depending on your menopausal status (see above) and do a thorough BSE as shown in the video below. The breast(s) with the flap reconstruction is/are definitely going to feel different but get to know those changes.

Should you feel a lump or hard tissue soon after the surgery, this can be a case of benign fat necrosis, the result of fat cells dying after breast reconstruction surgery. These cells calcify and form lumps soon after the surgery, and unlike cancer, they generally stay the same size or shrink over time.

BSE After Mastectomy and Reconstruction

If you have had a single or double mastectomy with reconstruction, you will still want to perform a monthly BSE, both on the normal breast (if you still have one), as well as along the surgical lines of the reconstructed breast. Look for any changes in the area where your breast was removed, such as lumps, bumps, persistent rashes, skin thickening, skin color changes.  I recommend this because even though the breast tissue has been removed, I personally know of two women who had breast cancer recur along the surgical lines of their mastectomy scars.  They felt odd lumps/bumps along the surgical lines, which biopsies revealed were cancerous.  I don’t share this to frighten you, merely to make you aware that it is possible and to be vigilant.

If You Feel Something During Your BSE

The breast is constructed rather like an orange or a grapefruit – you will probably feel segments, or nodules or glands and while that can be scary, it’s usually normal.  Get to know how your breasts normally feel.  If you feel something lumpy or hard, doctors normally advise that you wait two weeks and then do another BSE. Chances are what you felt will be gone because breast tissue often changes throughout the menstrual cycle in the pre-menopausal breast. But if the abnormality persists, you should definitely see your doctor for a clinical examination.

Excellent Breast Self Exam Video

Thank you to Michele Martineau, a fellow Coloradan who had the BRCA1/2 gene mutation, for the provision of her YouTube video demonstrating a very thorough (and discreet) breast self exam (she has done a much better job of making this video than I possibly could have done!):

Michele has an excellent website (www.CourageIsMyStrength.com) detailing her journey of choosing to have bilateral prophylactic mastectomy followed by several reconstruction surgeries and a detailed account of the troubles she encountered with those surgeries. If you are considering mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, this is a don’t-miss-it website.

What To Look For During The BSE

As you perform your BSE as described by the informational video above, you are looking for abnormalities in each breast such as dimpling, puckering or skin bulges, skin redness, soreness, rashes or swelling, lumps, and bumps. You also need to look at the health of the nipples. Do they look normal or are they inverted? Are they oddly puckered? Is there any discharge or crustiness?  Anything out of the ordinary that you are not comfortable with should be checked out by your doctor.

Don’t Forget Your Armpits, Collarbone

Make sure to check the soft tissue in the armpit as well as above and below both sides of the collarbone, because that’s where lymph nodes are located. Using your fingerpads, press gently into the soft tissue of the armpit and above and below the collarbone.  You are searching for any lumps, soft or hard.  Again – anything out of the ordinary with which you are not comfortable should be checked out by your doctor.

If You Have A Hot Painful Breast But No Lumps

If you have a hot, painful breast but no lumps are present, you may have what is known as inflammatory breast cancer.  See my article You Woke With A Red, Hot, Swollen Breast? for more information.

Please be vigilant, people.  I hope this information makes a difference to someone.

References:

http://www.breastcancer.org
http://www.healthination.com/cancer/breast-cancer/  View “How To Do Breast Self Exam” video

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

Mammogram Alternatives – What To Do Instead

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / chubphong
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / chubphong

Mammogram Alternatives – What To Do Instead

My main goal as a breast cancer coach is to share with you the best ways of keeping yourself free of breast cancer.  And I’m sorry, but having “routine”, yearly mammograms is definitely NOT part of that goal.  So today I’m going to provide you with some mammogram alternatives, three things you can do instead of having mammograms.

Why Do I Hate Mammograms?

I hate mammograms, not only because they are incredibly uncomfortable, but because they are associated with an increased risk of cancer due to the high doses of radiation received during each screening.  They are NOT saving lives, in fact, I would argue that millions of women are putting themselves at a higher risk each year by having these screenings done on healthy, non-cancerous tissue.

Another problem is the false positives which often result from routine mammogram screenings.  False positives can lead to expensive repeat screenings (and even more radiation), and can often result in unnecessary invasive procedures such as biopsies, surgery, radiation and even chemotherapy.  Not to mention the stress encountered when you are going through these things.

In May 2014, the New England Journal of Medicine released their article Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View From the Swiss Medical Board concluding that mammography screening is “hard to justify”.  International studies have been carried out on the efficacy of mammograms, and the results of those studies is making it clear that mammogram screening is not doing what it was designed to do – save lives.  Instead, people are being over-diagnosed and over-treated for things like DCIS which – in most cases – would never lead to invasive, life-threatening cancer.

At what point are we going to stop recommending mammography screening, pay attention to the science that clearly indicates it isn’t working, and do something else?

Dr Christine Horner’s Perspective

I recently had the good fortune to listen in on an interview with Dr Christine Horner, a doctor I have long admired for all she has done to promote natural healing and breast cancer prevention.  Dr Horner recommends that we do a combination of 3 tests that are much less invasive, have no associated risks or side effects, and can actually be preventative.  None of those things can be said about mammograms.  These 3 things are, especially when used in combination, extremely accurate:

At what point are we going to stop this madness, take stock of the science and acknowledge that widespread screening mammography for non-high risk women is not the answer to the breast cancer epidemic? – See more at: http://bcaction.org/2014/06/23/from-the-ed-breast-cancer-mammograms-overrated-and-over-diagnosing-women/#sthash.nh8RELUv.dpuf

1.  Ultrasound.  Ultrasound screening is non-invasive, safe and painless.  Sound waves – also called sonography – are used to produce pictures of the inside of the breast.  A small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel is placed on the surface of the skin, then high-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the breast.  The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image.  Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through vessels.

2.  Monthly Physical Exam.  If you haven’t become accustomed to doing a monthly self-exam, this is something you probably should consider.  If you aren’t quite sure how to do one, see my article How To Do A Monthly Breast Self Exam.  Since most women find their own breast lumps, learning how to do the self exam once per month is definitely worth the time and effort.  Put it on your calendar or in your smart phone for a certain day each month (please do it now!).

3.  Thermography.  I have written a few articles about thermography – see them all in my category Thermography.  Thermal imaging (approved by the FDA) uses a special infrared sensitive camera to digitally record images of the surface temperature of the body.  Any abnormal variations in surface body temperature are indicators that a tumor may be growing in that region.  Research has shown that the metabolic activity and vascular changes of developing tumors is higher and that results in an increase in surface body temperature compared to normal, healthy breast tissue.  Thermography is far more accurate in detecting breast cancer and it can do so YEARS earlier than can mammography.  For instance, it can detect tumor cells that are about the size of a single grain of rice, and mammography is still not that good.  When tumors that small are detected, patients have nearly a much better chance of long-term survival.

These three methods are very effective, not terribly expensive, and quite safe.

References:

British Medical Journal: Twenty five year follow-up for breast cancer incidence and mortality of the Canadian National Breast Screening Study: randomised screening trial

New England Journal of Medicine: Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View From the Swiss Medical Board

Dr Mercola: Your Greatest Weapon Against Breast Cancer (Not Mammograms)

Breast Cancer Action:  Early Detection Saves Lives: A Flawed Philosophy Even With 3D Mammography by Sahru Keiser

Pubmed.gov:  Effectiveness of a noninvasive digital infrared thermal imaging system in the detection of breast cancer

If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just  sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

The Problem With Obesity and Breast Cancer

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Stuart Miles

The Problem With Obesity and Breast Cancer

A study done by the University of Colorado Denver in December 2012, titled Obesity and Overfeeding Affecting Both Tumor and Systemic Metabolism Activates the Progesterone Receptor to Contribute to Postmenopausal Breast Cancer, was recently forwarded to me by a friend (since I both hail from Colorado and am a breast cancer coach) and several things in the study seemed worth sharing.

Study Searches For Reason Why Obesity Increases Breast Cancer Risk

The researchers were searching for an explanation of why obese, postmenopausal women are at greater risk for developing breast cancer, and also why their cancers tend to be more aggressive than those in leaner women.  The study was done on animals, but did open some insights as to why this could be happening.

The lead author of the study, Dr Erin Giles, stated “By using nutrient tracers for fat and sugar, we tracked where the body stored excess calories. In lean models, excess fat and glucose were taken up by the liver, mammary and skeletal tissues.  In obese models, excess fat and glucose were taken up by tumors, fueling their growth.”

I found this interesting because it implies that menopausal women might very well be able to control their breast cancer risk through weight management, something we’ve often been told. 

It also reminded me of another study I recently heard about where women who had received the traditional therapies for breast cancer were followed to see how they fared after those treatments.  They were split into 4 groups: (1) those who did nothing special after their treatments ended; (2) those who made the effort to eat 5 fruits and vegetables per day; (3) those who didn’t bother with the fruit and vegetables but who did exercise 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week; and (4) those who ate 5 fruits and vegetables per day AND exercised 30 minutes per day.  The group that fared much better than the other three, as you might imagine, was the 4th group, the group that ate the fruits and vegetables and exercised.  I don’t have access to the title of this study, but it is discussed by Dr David Servan-Schreiber in his video Natural Defenses In Preventing and Treating Cancer (see link below).

Progesterone Receptor Cancers More Aggressive

Back to the University of Colorado study.  The other interesting thing I read was that tumors from obese animals “exhibited increased levels of progesterone receptors, and that this receptor appeared to give tumors a metabolic advantage for growth.  To extend their findings to humans, they recruited gene analysis experts David Astling and Aik-Choon Tan who analyzed 585 human breast cancers and found that human tumors expressing the progesterone receptor had the same metabolic advantage.”

Dr Giles said, “Basically, we saw an abnormal metabolic response to fat and sugar in the obese that, in many ways, mirrors the response to fat and sugar in Type II diabetes.”  The researchers then tested the use of Metformin, a common Type II diabetes drug, with their test subjects and noted a dramatic decrease in tumor size, as well as reduced expression of the progesterone receptor.

This definitely piqued my interest because my own tumor had only progesterone receptors on it – no estrogen receptors – which is not the norm.  Because of this, many of my treatment providers, both conventional and alternative, were a little puzzled on how to proceed with my treatments.  I wasn’t obese, nor was I menopausal when I found my tumor, however.

Obesity and Weight Gain During Menopause Spells Trouble

The researchers found that weight gain during menopause is particularly detrimental for those who are obese and that the combination of obesity and weight gain during menopause can impact breast cancer in two ways:

1.  Tumors in obese women appear to have a metabolic advantage;

2.  The inability to store excess calories in healthy tissues may further fuel tumor growth.

Dr Giles said “While drugs may be useful in controlling breast cancer risk in obese, postmenopausal women, our results imply that a combination of diet and exercise may be equally if not more beneficial.”   The study to which Dr Servan-Schreiber referred in his video (referenced above) certainly implied that to be the case. 

So here’s what we can take away from these two studies:

1.  Women struggling with obesity as they enter menopause are at a higher risk of breast cancer;

2.   Those who are obese and do get breast cancer tend to have tumors that have a metabolic advantage, meaning they tend to grow more quickly and be more aggressive;

3.  A combination of good diet – incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables – together with 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times per week, had a very protective effect.

So it appears that the old adage is true – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  We need to keep our weight at a healthy level, not only in our earlier years, but particularly as we enter menopause.   Those are not the only things that will protect us from breast cancer, but a combination of diet and exercise is a good start.  To find out which fruits and vegetables give you the best protection, visit my page Diet and Cancer

References:

E. D. Giles, E. A. Wellberg, D. P. Astling, S. M. Anderson, A. D. Thor, S. Jindal, A.-C. Tan, P. S. Schedin, P. S. MacLean. Obesity and Overfeeding Affecting Both Tumor and Systemic Metabolism Activates the Progesterone Receptor to Contribute to Postmenopausal Breast Cancer. Cancer Research, 2012; 72 (24): 6490 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1653

Natural Defenses In Preventing And Treating Cancer (YouTube video – 58:21)

If you would like to learn how to protect yourself and decrease  your risk of getting breast cancer,  please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).

It’s A Great Idea To Assess Your Risk Of Breast Cancer – Before You Get It

Image Source: morgueFile / earl53

It’s A Great Idea To Assess Your Risk Of Breast Cancer – Before You Get It

Today’s post is aimed at younger women and I’m doing this because of the fact that, increasingly, younger women are getting breast cancer, and the younger they are, the more aggressive the breast cancer tends to be.  My biggest hope is that women in their 20’s and 30’s will read this post and be proactive about assessing their risk of breast cancer and acting before it becomes a problem for them.

There is already a lot of talk on various breast cancer forums and websites about breast cancer risk assessment, and also about genetic testing for breast cancer, so I wanted to provide you with a little basic information about why it’s a great idea to assess your risk of breast cancer EARLY and some easy tests you can undertake to do that.  I also would like to address the matter of hereditary factors and will start with that first because I think that people feel it’s the biggest reason why we get breast cancer.  That is not the case!

Only 5-10% Of Breast Cancer Is Hereditary

There are many things that appear to cause breast cancer – or at least put us at a higher risk – but you may be surprised to learn that in the vast majority, it is not caused by hereditary factors.  We have all heard about the tests that are available to determine whether you may have inherited certain genes that have been implicated in the development of breast cancer (Angelina Jolie was instrumental in bringing that information to the forefront), but the fact remains that genetic predisposition only accounts for 5-10% of all breast cancer.  The medical establishment is fond of telling us that breast cancer in the remaining 90-95% has an unknown cause, but there are many influencing factors and ongoing research confirms this.

Unavoidable Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Some of the factors that put us at a higher risk for breast cancer are pretty much unavoidable:

  1. Being female, although males can also get breast cancer as well;
  2. Certain races/ethnic groups have a higher risk;
  3. Increasing age;
  4. Having mother, sisters or daughters with cancer before age 50;
  5. A personal history of breast cancer (meaning you have already had it yourself before);
  6. Menstruation before age 12, and menopause after age 55 (these two put us at a higher risk because of sensitive breast cells having prolonged estrogen exposure);
  7. Having never breast-fed a baby;
  8. Having at least one breast with atypical hyperplasia (overgrowth of abnormal cells in the lobules or ducts);
  9. Hormonal imbalances (although it could be argued that this one is avoidable if one is paying attention to such things).

Avoidable Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Many other risk factors are avoidable.  You can do things to decrease your risk of breast cancer even if you have a strong family history of it (like I did).  Some of the avoidable risk factors are:

  1. Exposure to radiation via x-rays (this includes mammograms), uranium, radioactive materials;
  2. Exposure to xenoestrogens (estrogen-mimicking compounds) found in our environment in petroleum products (always check your body products and cosmetic ingredients on the Environmental Working Group website Skin Deep), also pesticides, fuels, detergents, certain plastics;
  3. Hormone replacement therapy, both synthetic and animal-derived;
  4. Having undergone breast biopsies;
  5. Obesity;
  6. Smoking;
  7. Excessive stress (doctors say “NO”, but my experience with this says definitely “YES”);
  8. Extremely poor diet with too much processed food;
  9. Excess alcohol consumption.

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

Here are a few easy things you can do to help you assess your risk of getting breast cancer.

  1. Get your vitamin D levels checked.   Most integrative doctors believe the optimal level should be in the range of 70-90 nanomoles/litre (nmol/L).  Below 25 is a serious deficiency.  If your levels are low, take supplemental vitamin D3.  Also, be aware that your body can produce 10,000 IU or more of vitamin D with as little as 10-15 minutes of exposure to sunlight.  In Australia, one of the sunniest countries on the planet, there is rampant vitamin D deficiency because for years that population has been told to “slip (on a shirt) slap (on a hat) slop (on some sunscreen lotion)” to curtail the increasing skin cancer incidence.  So what happens?  A vitamin D deficiency!   For more information, read this 2007 study: Intakes of calcium and vitamin D and breast cancer risk in women.  See also this 2008 study: Vitamin D from dietary intake and sunlight exposure and the risk of hormone-receptor-defined breast cancer.
  2. Get your hormone levels checked.  Hormonal imbalances often contribute to increased breast cancer risk.  If you are found to have abnormal hormone levels, work with an integrative doctor or a naturopath to balance hormone levels.  A great book to consult is Dr John R Lee’s What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer: How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life.
  3. Get your thyroid tested and iodine levels checked.  Having a hyperactive thyroid can increase your breast cancer risk, and interestingly, hypothyroid conditions are often encountered post-breast cancer.  For more information see my article Why Iodine and Selenium Are Useful for Breast Cancer.  Iodine, often deficient in our western diet, is the greatest common denominator linking both breast and thyroid health, according to naturopath Dr Jacob Schor.  Iodine is highly concentrated in breast tissue and suppresses breast cancer development.

When To Seek Help

If you notice the following changes in your breasts, please consult your doctor immediately:

  • a lump, lumpiness or thickening, especially if it is only in one breast and doesn’t seem to be related to your menstrual cycle;
  • any changes in your nipple such as redness, crusting, ulceration, inversion (turning inwards), altered shape, or discharge (especially if it comes from only one nipple or only one duct or if it is bloodstained);
  • a change in the color of the skin of the breast;
  • any heat, swelling or inflammation of the breast;
  • puckering or dimpling of the skin of the breast;
  • anything, in fact, that just doesn’t seem right about your breast(s).

Please read my website articles for other tips on how to reduce your risk of breast cancer.  You might also like to sign up for my free newsletters and e-books that are full of my best tips on healing from breast cancer and reducing your risk.

Reduce Breast Cancer Risk By Avoiding The Use Of Pesticides

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Sweet Crisis
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and SweetCrisis

Reduce Breast Cancer Risk By Avoiding The Use Of Pesticides

We are in the midst of fly season here in Western Australia and if you’ve ever encountered the Australian bush fly, you will know the special kind of hell they create for us!  Having said that, I am constantly surprised at how frequently I see friends reaching for a can of fly spray, or chemical mosquito repellant, or some sort of toxic pest spray, and thinking nothing of it.  I am here to persuade you otherwise because, of course, one of my main goals in life is to help people reduce breast cancer risk.  Not only are we spraying toxic chemicals into our environment (already laden with the same) but we are also setting ourselves up for breast cancer and there’s a very simple reason why.

Why Pesticides Are So Dangerous, For Women Particularly

Pesticides mimic the action of estrogen in our bodies.  The way they do this is by locking onto specific receptors within the breast and then stimulating cell division.  Even small amounts of pesticides can be dangerous to women. and the reason for this is that they concentrate in fat cells, and the breast is comprised mainly of fat cells!

Here are 3 Ways to Avoid Pesticide Exposure

1.  Use only plant-based or essential oil-based pest control in your garden (basically if it’s in your hardware store, I’d avoid it).  You can make your own, perfectly safe garden pesticide spray.  Here’s a great recipe:

Essential Oil Pesticide Spray For Garden

Items needed

* Distilled water
* Spray bottle – 8-oz/236 ml
* 1-1/2 tbsp liquid dish soap (biodegradable)
* Spearmint essential oil
* Citronella essential oil
* Lavender essential oil
* Blue tansy essential oil
* Cedarwood essential oil

To Prepare:

Fill an 8-oz/236 ml spray bottle with distilled water, add liquid dish soap, then add 3-4 drops of each essential oil.  Mix and spray generously on plants, fruits, and vegetables.

2.  Avoid the use of chemical sprays that you apply directly to your skin or into and around your rooms.  This wonderful and aromatic spray is easy to make,  and although the initial outlay for the oils is somewhat costly, they last forever and will make bottles and bottles of this.  Therapeutic grade oils have no expiration date but they should be kept in cool, dark places.

Personal Bug Deterrent

Items needed:

* Spray bottle, 8-oz/236 ml
* Distilled water, 4-oz/118 ml
* Unscented witch hazel, 4-oz/118 ml
* Thieves essential oil blend
* Purification essential oil blend
* Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil
* Citronella essential oil
* Lavender essential oil
* Lemon essential oil
* Peppermint essential oil
* Idaho tansy essential oil

To Prepare:

Fill spray bottle with the distilled water, add witch hazel, add 10 drops of Thieves, Purification, and Melaleuca alternifolia essential oils, add 5 drops each of lemon, lavender, peppermint, Idaho tansy, and citronella essential oils.  Shake well before each use and spray a light layer on skin and clothing.

This natural alternative to store-bought bug sprays will keep you free from chemicals and other unnatural ingredients, not to mention you are going to smell divine!  Everyone will ask you what that pleasant aroma is!

3.  Buy organic produce whenever and wherever you can.  If you can’t buy organic, due either to unavailability or finances, you must wash everything with a good quality fruit and vegetable wash, or make your own:

 Homemade Fruit & Vegetable Wash

* Slice a lemon in half and squeeze out 1 tbsp of lemon juice into a large spray bottle. If you don’t have a lemon, you can use a few drops of lemon essential oil.

*  Pour 2 tbsp of vinegar into the spray bottle, together with 1 cup of water.

 *  Screw on the top (the trigger portion) of the spray bottle and shake vigorously.  Spray this on all of your fruits and vegetables (even the organic ones can stand a wash!) prior to preparing or eating them.  Let them sit in the sink for a couple of minutes and then wash.  They are now ready to eat or use in cooking.

Please – do your best to get pesticides out of your environment.  If you regularly have your home and garden sprayed with insecticide, consider some alternatives, think about the fat cells in your breasts and let’s make our environment and our bodies a much cleaner, healthier place.

If you need to know where to buy therapeutic grade essential oils, contact me.  I will point you in the right direction!

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

Member No 267494
Member No 267494

Problems With Fluoride? You BET!

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Artzenter
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Artzenter

Are There Problems With Fluoride?  You Bet There Are!

One of the things I discovered when I was going through breast cancer in 2004 was that we are creating health problems with fluoride – we should NOT be fluoridating our water.

One of my chief concerns about it are that it accumulates in our bodies and there are numerous health studies indicating that it is creating increased incidence of thyroid problems, skin rashes, dental fluorosis, cancer, and many other conditions.

I found the anti-fluoride argument so compelling, I bought a shower filter and sold our outdoor hot tub.  Whenever I am at the dentist and they want to give me a fluoride treatment, I politely refuse and tell them about the video below.  I think they believe I’m slightly crazy, but I don’t care.

An Inconvenient Tooth

Don’t take my word for it though.  The absolute best way for you to learn about the problems with fluoride is via this You Tube video, “An Inconvenient Tooth”.  It is two hours and 49 minutes long and it will require a high level of dedication and curiosity for you to listen to the whole thing.  If you just want to learn the basics, though, please at least listen to the first man speaking, Paul Connett, who is a chemistry professor and Executive Director of the Fluoride Action Network.  I also thought Daniel Stockin (he’s on from 1:44 – 2:21) was particularly compelling, he’s an ex-Environmental Protection Agency worker.  Also, pay close attention to David Biles, a dentist who had a hard time believing the anti-fluoridation movement until he looked at the science, he’s on from 35:18 – 46:28.

Listen to it while you’re paying your bills, surfing your Facebook feed, driving somewhere.  But listen to it.  PLEASE.  It’s important, your health may depend on it.

3 Ways to Make a Difference

Once you have watched the video and are ready to take the next step to end fluoridated water, here’s what you can do.

1.  Check out FluorideAlert.org.  Read their page 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation.  Please sign their on-line petition to end fluoridation by clicking on “Take Action” at the top of the page.  I did.

2.  Vote with your purchases – stop buying toothpaste with fluoride (and a whole host of other toxic chemicals) in it.  For healthier toothpaste alternatives, go to my page “Useful Links” and click on Cosmetics and Body Products – Safe, Organic.  Or go to your local health food store and find something without fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate in it.

3.  Buy a water filter if you live in a part of the world where your water is fluoridated (it is in the United States, Ireland, Australia, United Kindom and Canada, and a handful of other countries) install a whole house filter, or at the very least filter your drinking water and your showering water.  Which brand do I recommend?  Go to my “Useful Links” page and click on Shower Filters (toward the bottom of the page).  If you are not in the USA, contact me for recommendations in your country.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

Does Having Dense Breasts Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk?


Photo courtesy of MorgueFile / Xenia
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile / Xenia

Does Having Dense Breasts Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk?
 
Breast density is a term that is used by the medical profession and it refers to the amount of fat and tissue in the breast, and this can be seen in a mammogram screening.  Dense breasts have more tissue than fat and younger women typically have breasts that are more dense.  As we age, however, our breasts become less dense, and after menopause, the breast tissue of most women is mainly fat.  The use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may cause women who take HRT to have higher breast density.
 
Breast Density and Breast Cancer Risk
 
You can find any number of articles on the Internet that take great pleasure in telling you that women who have denser breasts are at an increased risk for breast cancer, but ongoing research has been unable to prove why. 
 
I believe that the biggest problem is that for women with dense breasts, catching any cancerous activity via mammography is a very difficult thing to do.  Dense breast tissue and cancer both appear as white or light grey on a mammogram x-ray, making it nearly impossible for a radiologist to detect cancer – they say it’s kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack. 
 
Radiologists who are more proactive may provide density information to their patients, encouraging them to try other screening options like thermal imaging, ultrasound, or MRI.  Some states in the USA are actually passing laws that make it mandatory for women to be notified they have dense breast tissue after getting a mammogram, which I believe is a good thing.
 
What I find mystifying is that simply because dense breasts are more difficult to screen, that should not create a higher risk of breast cancer for their owner and yet that seems to be what the research is telling us.  According to www.cancer.gov: “It is not yet clear why breast density is related to a person’s risk of breast cancer, but there are currently studies aimed at finding a better method for assessing breast cancer risk using breast density.”
 
The latest bit of research I found comes to us via the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and is titled Benign Breast Disease, Mammographic Breast Density and the Risk of Breast Cancer which concludes that “Women with high breast density and proliferative benign breast disease are at very high risk for future breast cancer.”
 
If You Have Dense Breasts…
 
First of all, take a deep breath and don’t panic.  Until technology catches up with this issue, just know that there are many things you can do to protect yourself against breast cancer. There’s no magic pill but take the time to learn what you can do – be proactive.  I’ll help you.
 
In a recent review into breast cancer and lifestyle, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that at least 40% of breast cancer cases in the USA could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices
 
Want to know what they are?  Sign up for my free newsletters, e-book and report on the right and I’ll share all of my research and tips with you on how to reduce your breast cancer risk.  Not sure you want to do that?  Check my Testimonials page for feedback from my subscribers.
 

What You Need to Know About Chemicals and Cancer

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / adamr
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / adamr

Chemicals and Cancer

One of the things I try to achieve with this website is to teach about how toxic chemicals are present in our everyday products and things we encounter and how they can be increasing our cancer risk and acting as hormone disruptors.

Last May, the New York Times ran an op-ed article written by Nicholas D Kristof (an American journalist and winner of two Pulitzer prizes) titled “How Chemicals Change Us” and in the article Mr Kristof discusses how chemicals that act as hormone disruptors are increasingly causing havoc both in our environment and our health.  It’s a must-read article.

Beware Thermal Receipts

I learned a couple of new things in the article, for instance, I wasn’t aware that those thermal receipts that come out of gas pumps and ATM machines have endocrine disruptors in them!  For more info on this, check out this article: BPA Is Found In Paper Receipts which ran in the New York Times Green Blog in November 2011.  According to this article, “In the thermal receipts now routinely given out by stores, BPA is often used as a color developer for the printing dye.  Such receipts have a thermal-sensitive layer that, when heated, produces color. Beyond cash register receipts, high levels of BPA are also often present in the thermal paper used to make baggage destination tags, cigarette filters, and bus, train and lottery tickets.

Disturbing, to say the least!

We Are Rapidly Becoming Paranoid Label Readers

Are we going to have to wear rubber gloves at the gas pump and ATM?  Or when we buy a lottery ticket?  I know a couple of people who keep disposable gloves in their car so that when they are pumping fuel they don’t absorb any petrochemicals.  I don’t even think they know about the thermal receipts. 

The whole idea of having to be so paranoid about every little thing we encounter bothers me greatly.  Why can’t we get our (so-called) regulatory agencies to ban bisphenol-A (aka BPA) from being used by industries which create our food packaging, our body products and, well, basically anything that comes into contact with human bodies?  That would be the most practical thing to do.  Rather than that, however, we are becoming paranoid label-readers and Internet researchers, having to inspect absolutely everything we come into contact with and hoping that somewhere down the road that bottle of ketchup or face powder isn’t going to kill us.

I recently wrote an article titled Toxic Chemicals Found in Babies – 8 Ways to Protect Them (And You) about the prevalence of BPA in our lives.  My main aim is to raise awareness and get you to take action and not only stop using the products made by companies that just don’t care about our health but to speak out and get our various governments to make them stop using chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors.

If you’re not an activist, don’t worry.  You don’t have to march around with a sign, just vote with your money.  Don’t buy the products from companies who don’t care about our health, and support the companies who do care.  If you want to know who the good guys and bad guys are, contact me.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

Optimize Melatonin and Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / khongkitwiriyachan Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / khongkitwiriyachan

Optimize Melatonin and Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Research indicates that low levels of melatonin are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. In this article, I will share with you the role that melatonin plays, as well as 10 tips to optimize melatonin production, so you can get a better night’s sleep and reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Melatonin Is A Natural Hormone

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain, best known for its function with our sleep/waking cycles.  Light inhibits the production of melatonin in your brain and alters your natural rhythms (called Circadian rhythms). 

Way back in 1976, a research project called the Nurse’s Health Study followed 121,701 female nurses for a number of years. Among other health issues, the study found that nurses who worked night shifts had a 36% higher risk of breast cancer. Since then, other studies have found a relationship between lack of sleep, melatonin and breast cancer.

One 2008 Japanese study found that  women who sleep less than 6 hours per day had an increased risk for breast cancer.

How Melatonin Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

There are proposed to be three mechanisms of action by melatonin that reduce the risk of breast cancer:

  1. There are cells throughout your body (even cancer cells) that have melatonin receptors and melatonin has a calming effect on several reproductive hormones, including estrogen. When melatonin circulates during the night, cell division slows. When melatonin connects with a breast cancer cell, it counteracts estrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth.
  2. Melatonin boosts your production of interleukin-2 (an immune-stimulating substance), which helps identify and attack the mutated cells that lead to cancer.
  3. Melatonin reduces aromatase activity (aromatase is the enzyme involved with the synthesis of estrogen from precursor hormones).

In addition, melatonin has quite a variety of other useful actions in the body.  It is a potent antioxidant, it helps activate the immune system.  What it does for cancer is even more impressive.  It induces apoptosis (the process of programmed cell death, lacking in cancer cells), it inhibits the ability of cancer cells to metastasize (spread), it disrupts angiogenesis (the ability of a tumor to create new blood vessels and thus a way to feed itself), it stimulates cell differentiation (also a bad thing for cancer cells), it can even boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy, as well as decreasing its toxic side effects.

Pretty amazing little hormone, really.  So it sounds – initially – like it would be a good supplement to take, doesn’t it?  It’s not that easy, however.  There are some other things about melatonin that you need to know.

For an excellent presentation about melatonin, here is a 12-minute talk given by Dr Russel J Reiter at the University of Texas titled Melatonin’s Role In Cancer Prevention:

The Problem With Melatonin Supplementation

Frequent melatonin use, especially in the typical dosage of 3-6 mg, can trigger a somewhat vicious cycle in your brain.  It is, after all, a hormone, not a vitamin, herb or mineral.  If you supplement with melatonin regularly to get to sleep or for breast cancer risk reduction purposes, your body will produce even less, creating an even greater need for the hormone.  And melatonin supplementation can come with side effects such as next-day grogginess, headaches, dizziness, irritability, vivid dreams and nightmares.

Also, according to research conducted at MIT, the correct dosage of melatonin for it to be effective is 0.3 – 1.0 mg.  Many commercially available forms of melatonin are 3-10 times the amount your body would need.

Another complicating factor is how the supplement is prepared.  According to WebMD.com, you should only take the synthetic form of melatonin because the natural form comes from ground-up cow pineal glands and it may spread disease (who needs Mad Cow?).

Melatonin supplementation is helpful when you are suffering jet lag from moving swiftly through time zones – for short periods – and it’s useful for short periods of insomnia. Other than that, you are much better off optimizing your own body’s production of melatonin.

Here are the 10 best ways to do that.

10 Tips to Optimize Your Own Melatonin Production

  1. Darken Your Bedroom – Make sure your sleeping area or bedroom is totally dark, because even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Even that glow from your alarm clock can interfere with your sleep.  I use one of those battery operated alarms that you have to push to illuminate.  You might want to invest in blackout shades for the windows, or just wear a comfortable eye mask.
  2. Reduce EMFs in Your Bedroom – Refer to my article EMF Dangers and 7 Tips To Help You Avoid Exposure  and reduce the EMFs in your bedroom.  At first glance, the list of suggestions might be overwhelming, but don’t tackle them all on one day.  Start with the easy ones and then work your way through the list a little at a time. 
  3. Avoid Using Computer, Smart Phone and Television an Hour Before Bed – Between 9-10 pm is when your brain normally starts secreting melatonin so for optimal melatonin release, you need to avoid using your computer, smart phone or television at least an hour or so before going to bedIt’s a bad habit we’ve gotten into and these devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking that it is still daytime. The blue light interferes with your brain’s ability to produce melatonin.
  4. Get Sunlight in the Morning – Help your system to reset itself by getting 10-15 minutes of sunlight (if possible) first thing in the morning.  This sends a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, and that makes it less likely to be confused by weaker lights during the night.
  5. Get a Dose of Daily Sunlight – Whenever possible, try to get exposure to sunlight regularly each day.  It’s interesting how the pineal gland works – melatonin production is affected by the contrast of bright sunlight and complete darkness – so if you are in darkness all day long (think of coal miners), your pineal gland can’t distinguish the difference and will not optimize production of melatonin.
  6. Shower or Bathe Before Bed – Taking a hot bath or shower about 1-1/2 to 2 hrs before bed helps to increase your core body temperature, and when you get out it drops quickly.  This helps to signal that your body is ready for sleep.
  7. Use a Salt Lamp in Bedroom – If you need a source of light in the night (for instance for getting to the bathroom without tripping over the snoring animals) use a salt lamp.  Dr Reiter’s video discusses why these work best, but to explain briefly, light of this color and bandwidth (similar to a campfire) does not shut down production of melatonin in the same way that white/blue light does.
  8. Keep Bedroom Temperature Low – between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit or 16- 20 degrees Celsius is best.
  9. Establish a Bedtime Routine – The nervous system is much calmed by meditation, deep breathing, using essential oils (lavender is very calming) or receiving a massage from your partner.  Find a routine that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night because the body loves and responds to a calming routine.
  10. Eat a High Protein Snack Several Hours Before Bed.  The L-tryptophan derived from the protein helps your brain produce melatonin and serotonin.

References:

Sleep Duration and the Risk of Breast Cancer: the Ohsaki Cohort Study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2579702/

Melatonin Modulates Aromatase Activity and Expression in Endothelial Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23450505

Basic Mechanisms Involved in the Anti-Cancer Effects of Melatonin –
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21062257

Melatonin Overview – http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview#1

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, sign up for my free e-books and newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach).  

Book Review – Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risk With Foods You Love

http://MarnieClark.com/Breast-Cancer-Reduce-Your-Risk-With-Foods-You-LoveBook Review: “Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risk With Foods You Love” by Robert Pendergrast, MD

One of my lovely subscribers sent me a book last week (thank you Jeri!) which she said I had to read.  I love that!  I learn so much from my subscribers, it’s truly a wonderful two-way flow of communication.

The book was “Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risk With Foods You Love” written by Dr Robert Pendergrast, whose pediatric background didn’t stop him from having a passion for giving people hope that you CAN indeed prevent breast cancer, not only through the foods you eat, but offering many other prevention tips as well.   

I was anxious to learn whether Dr Pendergrast had uncovered anything I wasn’t already teaching via my blog articles, e-book and newsletters, but it looks like we are in complete agreement.  Although I didn’t uncover anything new in his book, I loved the passion with which he wrote it, it contains plenty of great information about diet (including soy, cruciferous vegetables, fish, flaxseed oil, healthy spices, medicinal mushrooms, berries, dark green leafy vegetables and all sorts of tea), he discusses the foods to avoid, environmental toxins, diet during treatments, and all sorts of other good things.  I loved that he also included information about mind-body medicine, spirituality, and stressed the importance of looking after both body and mind, which is my focus and passion too.

Tending Our Gardens

My favorite part of the book is towards the end.  Dr Pendergrast had a beautiful way of describing human health as a vegetable garden: “You’d like your garden to produce several different kinds of food (e.g. heart health. digestive health, mental health and feminine health), and you’d like to avoid the place being grown over by weeds (e.g. cancers) which choke out the other healthy plants.”  He says we need to start with healthy soil (e.g. nutrients for the plants), the right amount of water, avoiding chemicals, getting plenty of sunlight plus some shade to avoid overheating, having lots of plant variety (since disease is more likely to overtake a garden where only one crop is planted), planting the seeds in the garden at the right time, and trusting the wisdom of the earth to bring them up at the right time, then tending to the garden (pulling weeds, squashing pests, getting some exercise in that garden by virtue of hard work), then when the plants are ready for harvest, you get them into the kitchen and get “cookin with gratitude”!  Nice metaphors, and I will leave you to your own devices as to how to interpret them for yourself.

It’s a nice book, well written, and full of great information and I have it in my Amazon shop for your convenience.  I’ve also included it on my Recommended Reading page.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

Alert – Breast Cancer In Younger Women On The Rise

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and imagerymajestic
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and imagerymajestic

Breast Cancer In Younger Women

A new and troubling study published February 27, 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association authored by Dr Rebecca Johnson, herself a breast cancer survivor, indicates that the rates of advanced breast cancer among young women has risen slightly.  Here is an abstract of the study.

The authors reviewed a U.S. government database of cancer cases from 1976 to 2009 and they discovered that among women aged 25-39, in whom breast cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, indicating advanced disease, has increased from between 1-2 cases per 100,000 women to about 3 cases per 100,000 during that time span.

This is not good news because the tumors of younger women tend to be more aggressive than those of older women and the fact that they are being found after they have already spread to other parts of the body makes it even more difficult to effect a cure.

Population Increase Not The Whole Reason

Although breast cancer is still more uncommon in women younger than age 40, the study indicated that in the mid 1970’s, there were around 250 advanced cases diagnosed in women younger than age 40.  By 2009, however, the number had risen to more than 800.  During this time period, the number of women of that age range rose nationwide from about 22 million to about 30 million, an increase that might explain part of the study trend “but definitely not all of it,” Dr Johnson said, who is a medical director of a teen and young adult cancer program at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  Dr Johnson also stated “The change might be due to some sort of modifiable risk factor, like a lifestyle change” or exposure to some sort of cancer-linked substance, she said.

I’m not reporting this to scare anyone (because I don’t believe scaring you is a good way to get you to make necessary changes), but to inform and empower you to be more proactive with your health.  For mothers and daughters alike (and also men because they can get breast cancer too), it’s important to know the risk factors for breast cancer.

Free Report Covers Cancer Risk Factors, Offers Solutions

I have spent the past 20 years or so compiling information on breast cancer risk factors – delving into research, talking to doctors and natural therapists, and I have compiled what I learned into my report “24 Ways to Decrease Your Cancer Risk” which normally you would need to sign up for my free newsletters to receive.  And you can still do that.  But to show you how serious I am about getting the word out to younger women that they can decrease their risk of cancer by being very proactive, you can also download my report today by clicking this link:  24 Ways to Decrease Your Cancer Risk

Know How To Perform A Breast Self Exam

First and foremost, know your body.  Learn how to check your breasts – click here for the 5 Steps of a Breast Self Exam from breastcancer.org, a wonderfully informational site.  Don’t delay getting yourself to a doctor if you suspect anything unusual may be happening in your body.  Read my report, “24 Ways to Decrease Your Cancer Risk” and do your utmost to keep the risk factors at a minimum.  You owe this to not only yourself, but to your unborn children.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (FB.com/MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

 

Reduce Breast Cancer – Avoid Unnecessary Medical Imaging and HRT (And How To Do That)

reduce breast cancer avoid unnecessary medical imaging and hrt
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and renjith krishnan

Today I’m making an attempt to catch up (ha ha! as if!) on the stack of articles and medical research that has been piling up in my office and came across something interesting that I thought you’d want to know about.

It appears that the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation recently requested the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer.  Here’s a link to the full report.

I found it somewhat unbelievable that things such as phthalates, bisphenol A, industrial chemicals such as benzene, ethylene oxide, or pesticides like DDT could not be conclusively linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but I will be avoiding them anyway, and I think you should too.  The IOM did acknowledge that more research into these areas was required.  Amen to that.

The Two Environmental Factors Most Strongly Associated With Increased Breast Cancer Risk

The IOM found sufficient evidence to conclude that the two environmental factors most strongly associated with breast cancer were:

  1. Exposure to ionizing radiation; and
  2. Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (which will be covered in a follow-up article).

The IOM’s conclusion that there was a direct connection between radiation exposure and cancer is consistent with a great many other bodies of research which indicate that exposure to radiation in the same range as used for computed tomography (CT-scans) will increase the risk of cancer.

75 Million CT Scans Performed Annually In The U.S.

The use of CT scans has increased nearly 5-fold over the last 2 decades – did you know that 75 million CT scans are performed every year in the United States alone?  SEVENTY-FIVE MILLION!  According to the IOM report, “Thought leaders in radiology are often quoted as estimating that 30% or more of advanced imaging tests may be unnecessary.”  You think?

The reasons for overuse are many:

  • the ease of conducting the exam;
  • the clear diagnostic images made possible;
  • strong financial incentives, reflected by the growing ownership of CT scanners by non-radiologists for use in their private medical offices;
  • strong patient demand, resulting partly from advertisements that do not mention adverse effects;
  • medical malpractice concerns which lead to defensive test ordering.

I have said this before and I’ll repeat it: BREAST CANCER RISK CAN (AND SHOULD) BE REDUCED BY AVOIDING UNNECESSARY MEDICAL IMAGING.

What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk from Medical Imaging

There are times when CT scans, x-rays and other forms of medical imaging are absolutely crucial, necessary and can be life-saving.  It is important, however, for us to enter into a dialogue with our doctors when making decisions about medical imaging.  You have every right to insist on the necessity and safety of all radiology scans that you undergo.  Make sure you understand the risks and benefits and ask your doctor to explain those risks and benefits fully before you say yes.

Here 6 Important Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor:

  1. Is this scan absolutely necessary?
  2. Are there alternative tests that could be done?
  3. How can I be assured that the test will be done the safest way possible?
  4. Will information from this scan change the management of my disease?
  5. Can/should I wait until after seeing a specialist before getting the scan?
  6. Is it necessary to do it now?

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing most doctors recommend for determining whether breast cancer has begun in a woman (mammography) is also responsible for increasing her risk?  There is another option!  See my article about thermal imaging.

My next article will cover natural alternatives to synthetic hormone replacement therapy.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Why Vitamin D Is So Important For Breast Health

 

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and alex bruda
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and alex bruda

Why Vitamin D Is So Important

Because of the fact that women with breast cancer are generally deficient in vitamin D – and this is the time of year when we start to get deficiencies, when sunlight is less available or we’re all covered up, I wanted to raise awareness that this is a good time of year for vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because certain amounts of it come from sunshine in an interesting chemical reaction that happens in the skin. While soaking in the sun may seem like a great idea for getting the vitamin D we need, as you are probably aware, it can create problems for us by giving us wrinkly skin and increasing our risk of skin cancer.

Vitamin D is required for a healthy, functioning immune system.  It is also required for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus — two minerals that are crucial to bone health. Vitamin D also contribute to brain and heart health, as well as maintaining a healthy weight.

The importance of vitamin D cannot be stressed enough.  It is no ordinary “vitamin”, it is in fact a steroid hormone that influences nearly every cell in your body.  Receptors that respond to vitamin D have been found in nearly every type of human cell, from the bones to the brain, which is why it has such a powerful part to play in the human body.

Vitamin D’s Role In Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer

As we know, many breast cancers are fueled by estrogen and for those whose tumor cells have estrogen receptors (known as ER+, meaning that this sort of tumor appears to depend on estrogen to grow) there is some really great news about vitamin D.

In a recent study done on mice, researchers reported that calcitriol (the hormonally active form of vitamin D) inhibits the growth of many cancerous cells including breast cancer cells by arresting the cancer cells’ replication cycles.  Researchers also found that vitamin D suppressed aromatase, the enzyme that assists with estrogen synthesis in breast cancer cells.  Now that’s exciting news!   We’re always looking for natural aromatase inhibitors.

The Top 6 Food Sources of Vitamin D

  1. Fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, catfish, oysters, trout, halibut (fish oils and cod liver oils have the highest concentrations)
  2. Fortified orange juice (make sure yours has vitamin D in it)
  3. Plain yogurt, milk
  4. 100% whole grain cereals such as oatmeal
  5. Eggs
  6. Soy milk, tofu

What I wanted you to be aware of is that most foods do not contain sufficient amounts of vitamin D, so supplementation is advisable, especially at this time of year.

So How Much Is Enough and What Kind of Vitamin D?

According to mercola.com: “When you do supplement with vitamin D, you’ll only want to supplement with natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Do NOT use the synthetic and highly inferior vitamin D2, which is the one most doctors will typically give you in a prescription unless you ask specifically for D3. According to the most recent findings, which involved research on nearly 10,000 people, shows the ideal adult dose appears to be 8,000 IU’s a day to get most into the healthy range.”

If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, get them checked.  The best way to determine the correct dose for you personally is to get your blood levels of vitamin D tested.  Accordingly to Dr Mercola, the correct test to ask for from your doctor is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is the better marker of overall D status. This is the marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.

Source Articles

  • http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000102000000000000000.html
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22801352
  • http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/01/vitamin-d-for-breast-cancer.aspx

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  When you’re in a desperate situation, you need an ally.  You can depend on me to help you through this.