Breast cancer prevention requires addressing the real issues surrounding the global increase in incidence of breast cancer. Public health education, corporate responsibility, and governmental regulation of toxic chemicals and poor quality modern foods must be included in addressing the factors contributing to today’s cancer epidemic. Environmental factors influence an array of molecular mechanisms and consequently influence disease risk and gene expression.
A growing number of studies show that a parent’s diet and environmental exposures can influence DNA expression and have an effect on health outcomes later in life. Genetic studies provide insights to further understand fetal origins of adult disease. Epigenetics holds that environmental factors from our diets, stress responses, and chemical exposures can affect our genetic fate by turning genes on and off and that information can be passed down to future generations. Evidence therefore is accumulating that toxic exposures during in utero, and childhood, leads to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Women in the United State face a greater lifetime risk of breast cancer than any previous generation, even though only about 5 percent have a known genetic link.
According to a report published last year, WHO, released it’s first ever country by country analysis of environmental health and disease. The International Agency for Research on Cancer reports that breast cancer is now the most common form of cancer in women worldwide, with the highest rates in industrialized nations. In the United States, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer has tripled during the past 40 years, with estimates of one in six women having a diagnosis in their lifetime. Global research estimates that a women’s cumulative exposure to environmental estrogen compounds may be responsible for up to 50% percent of all breast cancers today.
To compound the problem of our toxic environment, we have refined away much of the nutritional value of our food supply and replaced it with artificial colorings, preservatives, flavorings, conditioners, etc. This poor quality diet-combined with extensive use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture-may have predisposed many of us to experience a kind of ‘internal’ pollution.
According to Dr. Walter Willet at the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Institute for Cancer Research, a recent study reviewing 4,500 scientific studies concluded in a 650 page report that 40% of Cancers are avoidable. “The bottom line: eat a plant based diet, maintain moderate weight throughout life, and get some exercise.”
Of all the common pollutants we are exposed to, the most harmful are those potent substances known as hormone disruptors, estrogen mimickers, or xenoestrogens. These pervasive chemicals, common in our daily lives and contained in most of our personal care products, household cleaners, pesticides, and plastics, have the potential to disrupt our hormonal and endocrine balance and cause chaos to many systems including the immune system, increasing the risk of cancer and other diseases.
The Good News: What we can do
Increasingly, scientists are examining the role specific natural plant compounds play in increasing the body’s natural defense system .
Nutrigenomics is the study of the response of humans to the natural qualities in food and the phytochemicals in nature. The understandings of nutrigenomics encourages foods and plant based supplements that can be matched to individual human genotypes to benefit the health of those individuals and enhance normal physiological processes.Currently, in major cancer centers, researchers are studying the effect of concentrated nutrients on gene expression and cell signaling pathways. Nutrients including resveratrol, curcumin, sulforaphane, and Vitamin D3 have been researched for their use as both protective agents as well as for the chemotherapeutic role in the treatment of cancer, including breast cancer.
Summary of Protective Nutrients
Research estimates that as many as 50 percent of breast and colon cancer cases could be prevented by increasing intake of vitamin D, according to a study that backs continued calls for higher upper limits of this essential vitamin.
Published in the journal, Nutrition Reviews, researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) compiled data from observational studies showing an inverse link between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] and these cancers. They took previous results one step further by looking into the dose-response gradient between serum 25 (OH)D and the risk of both cancers.
The findings confirm what some researchers have long been advocating: we does not consume enough vitamin D and that it needs to be made more available to consumers through public awareness as well as increasing recommended dosing. According to the study’s projections, in North America, a 50 percent reduction in colon cancer incidence would require universal intake of 2000 IU (International Units) per day of vitamin D3, and a 50 percent reduction in breast cancer would require 3500 IU per day.
Resveratrol is classified as a polyphenol because of its chemical structure. Polyphenols make up a huge group of plant compounds that are further broken down into other classifications such as flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins. Naturally created by certain vines, pine trees, peanuts, grapes, and other plants, resveratrol also contains anti inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antiviral properties. Reservatrol is currently in trials at Anderson Cancer Center for use as a potential chemotherapeutic agent.
Three recently published scientific studies reinforce the protective power of sulforaphane, the naturally-occurring antioxidant in broccoli and broccoli sprouts by demonstrating three new aspects. Sulforaphane is the most characterized isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are identified in cruciferous vegetables. Sulforaphane is viewed as a promising agent in cancer prevention. Because of its ability to induce cancer cell apoptosis, it inhibits progression of benign tumors to malignant tumors and interrupts metastasis.
Green Tea Polyphenols
The polyphenols in green tea are catechins with multiple linked ring-like structures. Polyphenols are a form of bioflavonoids with several phenol groups. The dominant and most important catechin in green tea is (-) Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), a potent antioxidant.
Curcumin research has been extensively published in peer-reviewed medical journals detail itâ€™s ability to protect against cancer. In addition to its capacity to intervene in the initiation and growth of cancer cells and tumorsâ€”and to prevent their subsequent spread throughout the body by metastasisâ€”curcumin also has been shown to increase cancer cellsâ€™ sensitivity to certain drugs commonly used to combat cancer, rendering chemotherapy more effective in some cases.
Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis.
J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Mar;103(3-5):708-11
Garland CF, Gorham ED, Mohr SB, Grant WB, Giovannucci EL, Lipkin M, Newmark H, Holick MF, Garland FC.Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California-San Diego,
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of post-menopausal breast cancer–results of a large case-control study
Carcinogenesis. 2008 Jan;29(1):93-9. Epub 2007 Oct 31. .Abbas S, Linseisen J, Slanger T, Kropp S, Mutschelknauss EJ, Flesch-Janys D, Chang-Claude J. Division of Cancer Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.
The Role of Resveratrol in Cancer Therapy
Aggarwal BB, Bhardwaj A, Aggarwal RS, Seeram NP, Shishodia S, Takada Y. Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Bioimmunotherapy, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.Â Sulforaphane Inhibits Human MCF-7 Mammary Cancer Cell Mitotic Progression and Tubulin Polymerization
The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 134:2229-2236, Nutrition and Cancer Steven J. T. Jackson and Keith W. Singletary3 Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) stabilizes p27kip1 in estrogen- stimulated MCF-7 cells through downregulation of the Skp2 protein. Huang HC, Way TD, Lin CL, Lin JK. Endocrinology. 2008 Aug 21.
Green tea intake, MTHFR/TYMS genotype and breast cancer risk: the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Inoue M, Robien K, Wang R, Van Den Berg DJ, Koh WP, Yu MC. Carcinogenesis. 2008 Oct;29(10):1967-72.