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Breast cancer: prevention may be best medicine

The January/February issue of Natural Health magazine provides a list of thirteen simple things a woman can do to help prevent breast cancer. Every woman should be aware of these preventive measures because the statistics are alarming: every American woman has a 1:8 chance of developing breast cancer in her life.

Japanese women have 1/3 the risk of breast cancer of American women. This may be explained by their high consumption of kelp (a type of seaweed). Kelp, chlorella and spirulina contain chlorophyll, which studies have shown to have anticarcinogenic effects. They also contain vitamin C and carotenoids, which fight free radicals.

Limit Fat Intake
Women should limit fat intake to 20 percent of their overall caloric intake. A diet high in fat is known to contribute to breast cancer. Japanese women who move to the U.S. have an increase in breast cancer as the fat in their diet increases. It is also thought that a high-fat diet produces chemicals in the intestine that convert to carcinogenic estrogens.

Get plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Fiber interrupts the body's metabolism of estrogen and decreases estrogen blood levels. High levels of estrogen in the bloodstream correspond to a higher risk of breast cancer. High-fiber diets can decrease breast cancer risk by 54 percent.

Cruciferous Vegetables
Eat broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, kale, bok choy and cauliflower. These cruciferous vegetables contain indoles, compounds that eliminate estrogen from the body and prevent it from triggering the growth of breast cancer. Steam the vegetables or eat them raw to preserve their cancer-fighting nutrients.

Fatty Acids
Eat cold-water fish (halibut, salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines, haddock) or take fish oil capsules or algae-derived DHA supplements. A major British study showed that a high consumption of fish oil and fish was linked to fewer cases of cancer. In a study from Finland, women with breast cancer had lower levels of EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fatty acids. Eskimo women, who eat a diet extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, have no breast cancer at all.

Soybeans and other soy products contain genistein, a natural plant estrogen that binds to receptors in the breast, making it impossible for cancer-causing forms of estrogen to connect with the breast cells. Soy also decreases the development of blood vessels that feed a tumor, increases cancer cell death, and contains enzymes that break down carcinogens in the body.

Organic Foods
Whenever possible buy organic fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, meat and poultry. Organic products are free of pesticides and other toxins that are linked to a higher rate of breast cancer. Dairy products and meats that are certified organic are free from bovine growth hormone, a chemical fed to cows that has been shown to promote the growth of breast cancer cells.

Various supplements are known to help in the fight against breast cancer.

Astragalus: A 1990 study showed astragalus increases the body's ability to kill cancer cells tenfold.

Selenium: A 1989 study showed the higher the blood levels of selenium, the lower the rate of breast cancer.

CoQ 10: This nutrient protects against cancer by strengthening the immune system and fighting free radicals.

Grapseed extract: 20 times more powerful than vitamin C and 50 times more powerful than vitamin E at fighting free radicals.

Alpha-lipoic acid: A powerful antioxidant that strengthens and regenerates other antioxidants in the body.

Medicinal mushroom, especially the Japanese varieties of maitake and shiitake, stimulate the immune function and may also inhibit tumor growth.

Green Tea
Green tea contains cancer-fighting antioxidants and polyphenols, which reduce the damage done by free radicals. One study showed women who drank a lot of green tea (10 cups per day) ha

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