Breast Cancer and Environment

December 16, 2011 in General, Health, Nutritionism, Weight Management, Whole Grains by Mary Ireland

The study released last week, "Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach" published in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies found that of the environmental factors reviewed, the most consistent link to breast cancer were "lifestyle factors," such as too much medical radiation, use of estrogen-progestin hormone therapy, smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, and for postmenopausal breast cancer, and weight gain. The good news is that women can reduce their risk of breast cancer through personal actions to avoid these factors.

When a report such as this suggests that minimizing weight gain and increasing physical activity can help you reduce cancer risk, Dr. Grandma and I look at each other knowingly -- the study can be added to the growing body of evidence that supports this idea. In addition, Dr. Grandma has done a lot of research and written a number of excellent posts about reducing your cancer risk through diet. Some of these posts include:

One interesting research summary from Boston Medical Center and the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health addresses the relationships between cancer risk and adequate amounts of folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and methionine. The review found that

  • women who drink alcohol and have a high folate intake are not at increased risk of breast cancer
  • diets low in methionine and folate but high in alcohol are associated with a higher risk of colorectal adenoma and cancer
  • people with adequate folate intake, but who have a genetic alteration in an enzyme involved in folate metabolism, may have a lower risk of colorectal cancer but are especially sensitive to alcohol’s carcinogenic effects.

It is important to get folate, vitamin B6 vitamin B12 and methionine from your diet. Dr. Grandma's has posted research associating folic acid supplementation and fortification with increases in colon, lung and prostate cancers. Find a way this holiday season to sneak some healthy meals in around all of the "festive" food and traditional holiday fares that will temp you. Try to have a least one super healthy meal a day. Dr. Grandma's Recipe Section is full of great tasting dishes, made from real food that are truly nutritious -- or try a nutrient-packed salad as a low-calorie, healthy way to get vitamins and minerals. You can add to your nutrient intake by snacking on fresh veggies (such as broccoli spears, carrot sticks, cucumber slices) and fresh fruits (such as apples, bananas, oranges and grapefruits). Adding beans and/or some wheat berries to soups, casseroles, salads - whatever you are preparing for a meal -- is a quick and easy way to increase your folate intake.

And finally, you might want to consider that the findings in "Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach" aren't a reason to stop worrying about risks from consumer products and toxins around us. Researchers found "possible associations" between breast cancer and secondhand smoke, nighttime shift work and exposures to the chemicals benzene, ethylene oxide and 1,3-butadiene, which are found in some workplaces, car exhaust, gasoline fumes and tobacco smoke. It is wise to avoid exposure to as many chemicals as you can, but that is becoming increasing difficult to do. We at Dr. Grandma's suggest "an ounce of prevention" - eat healthy, exercise and avoid as much toxic exposure as possible. Your personal actions can make a significant difference.