As my teenage sons and I were watching football this past Sunday afternoon, one of the teams called a timeout, and the trainers came sprinting on the field with their water bottles and towels. Pink towels, of course, flapping around from their belts as they ran. Because it’s still October.
“I know yellow flags are for penalties, and red flags are for challenges,” I said to Matthew. “But what do you suppose the pink flags are for?”
He quickly deadpanned, “Someone spotted breast cancer on the field, and they just wanted to make everyone aware.”
It does all get a little silly and overdone after a while. I have to admit: I’m a bit weary of writing about breast cancer. You may be a bit weary of reading about it.
But for all the criticism I’ve thrown at the Komen Foundation, the NFL, the corporate partners and sponsors and mammogram pushers this month, the truth is, breast cancer still is the second leading killer of women in the United States, claiming the lives of 46,000 women each year. If we really stopped to think about it, how likely is a medical cure going to happen anytime soon? And whether it’s cancer of the breast or any other kind of cancer, who among us can say that the best outcome to hope for would be receiving a diagnosis, and then treating the cancer with the intent to cure?
Why are we completely forgetting the obvious? Why are we not working to prevent it from ever happening in the first place?
One reason could well be the oft-repeated myth that it’s not preventable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard claims from physicians and organizations as lofty as the American Cancer Society itself stating that you can’t prevent breast cancer – as if we have absolutely no idea what causes it or where it comes from. As if it’s a completely random disease, and the best we all can do is cross our fingers, hope, and pray it doesn’t happen to us.
Of course, it’s precisely this sense of powerlessness that keeps everyone racing for the cure and blindly donating money in the hopes that the cancer gods will spare us from this terrible fate.
When you really think about it, the causes of breast cancer aren’t all that mysterious. By way of illustration… Last summer, I had the great fortune of being able to take a month-long trip to Eastern Europe. Perhaps my favorite place was Albania, the homeland of my dear tour guide. As we traveled and witnessed the remnants of a once severely isolated and socialist country, we discussed how much has changed over the past twenty years, ever since the socialist government collapsed and the nation became more open – to ideas, to trade, and to western influence. Certainly, there have been great positive changes in overthrowing a murderous dictator, dispelling all the falsehoods he perpetrated through his propaganda, and allowing people to live their lives, their faith, and their dreams openly again.
But one of the less positive creeping influences has been the proliferation of cancer among the country’s people.
“Cancer,” Ella says, “was one of those very rare things in our world growing up. You hardly ever heard of someone getting cancer, and when they did, it was so unusual that it was the talk of the town.”
But now? It’s picking up speed at an alarming rate. Over the past 20 years, cancer rates in Albania have absolutely skyrocketed. Breast cancer in particular has begun to rapidly gain hold in that country.
But think about it: breast cancer didn’t just suddenly come out of nowhere and start randomly assaulting Albanian women. It came on the heels of new lifestyle changes. For instance, people didn’t drive cars before the 1990’s in Albania. Everyone had to walk wherever they needed to go. Now, cars are everywhere, so people walk less and pollute the air more. Before 1994, Albanians had never heard of Coca-Cola. But that year, a major plant was established in Tirana, the nation’s capital, and Cokes are everywhere now. No coincidence that cancer has risen in proportion to the Albanian people’s ability to get their hands on this poison, not to mention many other processed food imports that were unheard of in the days of nothing but fresh produce, homemade bread, and government-rationed meat and eggs.
Perhaps most interesting of all: since just 2005, imports of deodorants and antiperspirants from the United States have more than quadrupled. Before 1992? There were NO deodorants or antiperspirants of any kind in Albania. Why is this significant? Because there’s been a lot of debate and “rumors” about whether or not the parabens and other chemicals found in antiperspirants have anything to do with breast cancer. The traditional medicine researchers claim there is no conclusive evidence, but some of the more alternative practitioners dispute that.
And yet all of a sudden, as of a report just this past week, the rate of breast cancer among Albanian women has MORE THAN DOUBLED in JUST ONE YEAR.
Is anyone “official” looking at these statistics and endeavoring to conduct a scientific study demonstrating a possible link?
In my opinion, you really don’t need to conduct a scientific study to put two and two together when you look at the shockingly rapid increase in Albanian cancer diagnoses. And you don’t need to do it when you look at what’s been going on in the modern western world, either.
So, what to do? Prevention really comes down to common sense. Here’s a down and dirty primer:
EAT THE RIGHT FOODS, AVOID THE WRONG ONES
First of all… just eat real food. Skip the fancy diets and packaged weight loss programs. Those foods are actually loaded with additives that will negatively affect your health and could eventually lead to the development of cancer. Just eat the real stuff. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and buy produce – lots of it. Eat more vegetables than anything, lots of fruits, raw nuts, and lean protein. If you eat meat and eggs, go for the cage free, the grass fed, the organic versions.
What foods should you avoid? Pretty much the same ones that also contribute to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and any other lifestyle disease you can think of: fast foods, trans fats, processed foods, refined foods. Eliminate or at least cut back on red meat and processed meats, avoid grilling or frying meats of any kind, stay away from vegetable oils and sweets… particularly anything with refined white sugars or artificial sweeteners. Excess caffeine, dairy, and alcohol can all contribute to cancer, but if you tolerate these things well, moderate consumption may be okay. If you want some more guidance on how to switch up your processed foods to the real, whole, much better for you and better tasting varieties, this is an awesome site.
And while these are good recommendations all around, what are the best foods to specifically protect yourself from breast cancer? Dr. Joel Fuhrman uses the acronym G-BOMBS to help us remember them: Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds are the foods with the most powerful immune-boosting and anti-cancer effects. According to Fuhrman, these foods help to prevent the cancerous transformation of normal cells, and allow the body to be ready to efficiently attack any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells that may arise. In one recent Chinese study, women who ate at least 10 grams of fresh mushrooms each day had a 64% decreased risk of breast cancer.
GET YOUR VITAMIN D
For years, we’ve been told we need to avoid the sun in order to avoid cancer. While sitting out on the beach for endless hours at a time and burning your skin to a crisp is clearly not a healthy thing to do, the fact is, the sun is our best source of vitamin D, and getting adequate amounts of vitamin D is a critically important part of cancer prevention.
There are hundreds of studies you can research to prove that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is an effective strategy for protection against cancer. Dr. Fuhrman cites an interesting study that gave about 1000 women 1100 IUs of Vitamin D and tracked them for four years. The study “showed a significant reduction in all types of cancer incidences as the study progressed (including breast cancer). The results were remarkable, the Vitamin D supplements had a very strong effect at preventing cancer development even in just a few years and the corrected blood value for Vitamin D correlated with the protective effects against cancer. This study was so impressive because cancer-causation is a process that takes decades, yet in this short time frame, the Vitamin D supplements decreased cancer occurrences by over 50 percent. If the study went longer it may have even shown a greater reduction in cancer outcomes.”
So, get in the sun, and augment your protection with a quality Vitamin D3 supplement.
KNOW YOUR RISK FACTORS
There are several known “risk factors” shared by many women who wind up with breast cancer: early onset of puberty, late menopause, late childbirth and the birth of few or no children, not having breast-fed any children, obesity, consuming a high fat diet, having cancer of the ovaries or uterus, using oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and the excessive use of alcohol. Clearly, a few of these factors are absolutely beyond our control, such as the ages at which menstruation begins and ends. If you have risk factors beyond your control, just be extra aware, and choose the appropriate screening methods for you. (See below.) But clearly, drinking too much, taking the pill, bottle-feeding your babies, eating too much fat, and being too fat are factors that can be addressed – there are choices you can make. This is not to lay blame – we live in a society where a confluence of external factors conspire against us and often lead to our making poor, even ignorant, choices. And some choices, like choosing not to breastfeed, are very personal ones with a host of legitimate reasons behind them. But be informed, and know that you have options to decrease your risk.
ELIMINATE AND/OR MITIGATE THE INFLUENCE OF TOXINS
Toxins are all around us, and they are impossible to escape completely. Cigarette smoke, chemical solvents, perfume chemicals, household cleaners, pesticides, skin care products, and conventional cosmetics abound. But you can make choices every day to avoid a lot of them, or to mitigate the effects of the ones you can’t avoid. Use “green” cleaners around the house; you can even make your own using all natural ingredients. Talk carefully with your doctor about any medications that increase or interfere with your normal hormonal cycles, and make informed decisions. Don’t use pesticides in your garden, and don’t buy food that’s been treated with them… look for organic labels and purchase them whenever possible. Don’t smoke, and avoid being around people who do. Consider the efficacy of procedures such as mammograms and x-rays. Use clean natural soaps and shampoos. Avoid perfumes and hairsprays that not only put toxic fumes in the air, but are sprayed directly on your skin. And research may not yet be conclusive, but it certainly seems to be leaning toward quitting the use of underarm antiperspirants. Just remember what’s happening in Albania with breast cancer diagnoses in just the past few years, in astonishingly direct proportion to the increase in antiperspirant/deodorant imports from the US. Do you really want to wait for the definitive, official study to tell you they are indeed dangerous? By then, it may be too late.
SCREENING THAT MAY ACTUALLY WORK
Last week, I wrote about how mammograms are ineffective tools in the fight against breast cancer. The FDA, of course, disagrees with me. But Dr. Christiane Northrup, a much more informed authority in my opinion, makes a clear case for considering a procedure called thermography as a tool not only to detect breast cancer much more accurately and earlier than a mammogram, but to help determine the overall health of your breasts with far less risk, and no pain. There are plenty of people who consider this tool to be quackery, but that’s a charge often leveled by those in conventional medicine against those who don’t subscribe to everything they hold sacred. I’ve never personally undergone this procedure and can’t offer an informed opinion, but I encourage you to do your due diligence before deciding which screening option makes more sense for you – if you choose a screening option at all.
IS THERE A CURE?
All this being said, it’s true that sometimes, despite taking every precaution possible, some women wind up with breast cancer. I don’t know what the statistics are that reveal how many women develop breast cancer when they also have had the lifelong benefits of a purely whole foods diet, regular exercise, adequate Vitamin D intake, and limited exposure to toxins. One thing is for sure – such women are very rare indeed.
So the idea of finding a cure remains important – but a real cure, not the treatments we’ve used to kill cancer and harm people for decades. Not the ones that work to lengthen the lives of sick people instead of really restoring them to health and vitality. It’s always struck me as odd that we choose to fight cancer with poisons and knives – that in attacking the cancer, we always inevitably attack what’s also healthy and good in our bodies. Why haven’t we found a way to heal that builds the body up instead of tearing it down?
Actually, there are plenty of people walking the earth today who are breast cancer survivors, and they’ve survived without resorting to being poisoned by chemo, risking further damage and cancer risk from radiation, or having their breasts cut off. The establishment won’t admit it, but you can read a few of their stories here. Cures have been found in things as simple as fresh broccoli juice and sprouts, superfoods, and other nutrient dense foods. Intravenous Vitamin C and low dose chemo has worked for many, combined with a raw food diet and the hardcore elimination of sugar in all its forms. Hyperthermia is another procedure being touted as highly effective and showing great promise, one where heat is used to specifically target and kill cancer cells.
The point is, a diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence. And in order to live – and even thrive – there are kinder, gentler options to consider outside of mainstream medicine that offer much more promise than the standard trio of chemo, radiation, and mastectomy. Of course the FDA, the American Cancer Society, and many other arms of conventional medicine will urge you to pursue the more conventional options.
What you must consider in this matter, as in so many others, is this: are they urging you to pursue those options because it’s in YOUR best interest to do so?
Or is it in THEIRS?
So, now that we are all fully aware of breast cancer, aware of the sexist overtones that cloud the month of October, aware of the huge profits at stake, aware that traditional medicine does a poor job diagnosing and treating it, and aware that it CAN be prevented and CAN be treated, even cured, with methods not approved by the FDA…. well, it’s time for November, and something less contentious, like the upcoming Presidential election.
Speaking of which, I’ll be addressing that topic (without an endorsement, but with my own unique spin) in a special Election Day edition of my blog on Tuesday, November 6 – which will serve as my contribution here for the next two weeks. There will be no full-length blog article next Friday, November 2, or the following Friday, November 10. I will be busy celebrating the launch of my November special and working on the launch of the special for December, and I hope you’ll consider taking part in the fun yourself!