Archive for the ‘Breast Cancer’ Category

In the News: Walking, quality sleep, broccoli, olive oil and a daily dose of happiness can significantly cut risk of breast cancer

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

A recent study from Nagoya City University in Japan (published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention), found that walking for just half an hour a day can more than halve a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Women who walked regularly and take further gentle exercise were 55 per cent less likely to get a tumour than those who did not keep fit. The findings back earlier studies, which also indicate that gentle exercise is crucial for preventing the disease.


Another study from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendal, Japan, (published late last year in the British Journal of Cancer) found that exercise can cut the risk of breast cancer overall (because it helps reduce body fat and fat tissue produces more oestrogen, which increases cancer risk), but only if exercise is followed by a good night’s sleep. The US study of thousands of women found significantly lower levels of breast caner among the most physically active, but sleeping less than seven hours a night wiped out the benefits and actually increased the risk of cancer. Scientists believe sleep disruption interferes with the production of a vital hormone called melatonin, which could play an important role in protecting against cancer.


In addition to regular exercise and quality sleep, research from the University of California (published last month in the journal of Carcinogenesis) suggests that eating broccoli regularly can dramatically decrease the risk of breast cancer. Along with other cruciferous vegetables, such as kale and cauliflower, broccoli is already known to contain certain chemicals that prevent cancer. But this study found that specific compounds in broccoli, called isothiocyanates, inhibit the rapid growth of tumour cells in a similar way to chemotherapy drugs. Virgin olive oil also has potent anti-cancer properties according to a study released this month from the Catalan Institute of Oncology and published in the journal BMC Cancer.


Last, but by no means least, a daily dose of happiness can also protect against cancer. A study from Ben Gurion University of Negev (and published in the journal BMC cancer last month) found that women who were happy and had a positive outlook could cut their risk of cancer by 25 percent. However, a stressful life could have the opposite effect. Women who suffered two or more traumatic events, such as divorce or bereavement, had a 62 per cent greater risk of cancer than those whose lives were less stressful.

Quick Tip: Soya may lower breast cancer risk

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Women with high blood levels of an oestrogen-like compound found in soya may be at lower risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers at the National Cancer Centre in Tokyo, Japan, followed 24,000 Japanese women aged from 40 to 90 and found that those with the highest levels of the isoflavone genistein were 65 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those with lower levels.

Ask Marilyn: are there any natural remedies I can try for painful breasts?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Q: I’m 47 and for the last year, about ten or so days before my period, my breasts are so painful I can’t stand anyone near me. Taking evening primrose hasn’t helped much. Are there any other natural remedies I can try?


A: Breast swelling and pain, especially in the week or so before your period are normal reactions to fluctuating hormone levels. As women reach their 40s, however, this discomfort can develop into severe pain called mastalgia, where the breasts become hard and extremely painful. A mastalgia attack can last for up to ten days, and it sounds very much like you could be suffering from this. The causes are not completely understood, but mastalgia may be caused by unusual sensitivity of breast tissue due to fluctuating hormones as menopause approaches.


If you do experience breast pain your immediate fear would be that the pain was due to breast cancer, but in most cases mastalgia is a benign condition. You should, however, still see your doctor to rule out any potential problems. 


Evening primrose contains an omega 6 fatty acid with anti inflammatory properties and it can be effective for some women. If it isn’t helping, you may need a higher dose. Try to get a supplement with at least 100mg of GLA, which is also found in borage oil (see the Resources Page for a high strength GLA supplement). It’s also possible that the treatment isn’t right for you because, although older studies showed that supplementing your diet with evening primrose oil that contains GLA (gamma linoleic acid) could reduce breast discomfort, more recent studies have not backed this up. Do bear in mind though that evening primrose oil needs to be taken for about three months to be effective, so you may just need to be patient.


You may also be eating too many trans and saturated fats, which can block the absorption of essential fats. Trans fats from hydrogenated oils are found in processed products and saturated fat is found in red meat and dairy, so reduce your intake.


Then try the recommendations below:

  • If you suffer from breast tenderness make sure you wear a comfortable supportive bra – one that does not irritate the nipple area as you move.
  • To treat the pain put a towel soaked in hot water on the area for 15 minutes, then a cold one for 15 minutes. Do this in the morning and evening to ease discomfort.
  • Make sure you get your phytoestrogens, found in foods such as soya, chickpeas and lentils.
  • Cut down on foods and drinks containing caffeine. They have been shown to increase problems with tender breasts because they contain substances called methylxanthines. Methylxanthines are a family of substances found in coffee, black tea, green tea, chocolate, cocoa, cola and decaffeinated coffee, as well as in medications that contain caffeine, such as headache remedies. These methylxanthines have been linked to painful and uncomfortable breast. 
  • Up your fibre intake. Research has shown that there may be a link between constipation and a painful breast condition called fibrocystic breast disease. So make sure you drink enough water and have a good intake of fibre to ensure regularity. You may also like to sprinkle some flaxseeds (linseeds) on your cereal in the morning. There is an excellent flaxseed (linseed) product that The Natural Health Practice stock, which is made from crushed organic cold milled flaxseeds – it’s all ready to eat just by sprinkling on your food.  It is called Fortiflax.
  • Don’t, however, include bran in your diet. Bran can actually make things worse because it contains substances called phytates, which can interfere with the absorption of important nutrients, like magnesium and calcium.
  • Vitamin E has been shown to reduce breast pain and tenderness in some studies. So eat foods rich in vitamin E, such as oats, sunflower oil, whole grains, soya oil and leafy green vegetables. You may also like to take a supplement for a couple of months to give you a kick start.
  • Eat some live yogurt every day. Breast tenderness may be related to an excess of oestrogen; the beneficial bacteria in live yogurt can help to reabsorb old hormones and also to increase the efficiency of your bowel movements. Or else take a probiotic supplement like BioKult.
  • Increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish oil and flaxseeds, have been found to relieve breast tenderness and fluid retention. Take fish oil capsules (like the Omega 3 Plus) or eat more fish or sprinkle linseeds (flaxseeds) on to your salads and soups.
  • The B vitamins are of particular value if you suffer from breast tenderness because they help your liver break down excess oestrogen. Improve your intake of B vitamin foods and think about taking a B complex supplement for a couple of months.
  • A number of essential aromatherapy oils, such as lavender, fennel and juniper, can encourage lymphatic drainage and help relieve breast pain by helping to regulate hormones. Massage them on your breasts putting one drop of your chosen oil on a teaspoon of carrier oil, such as sweet almond or sunflower, or use a few drops in your bath.
  • The herb Ginkgo Biloba has proved to be effective. A French study showed women with PMS breast tenderness taking Gingko Biloba reported less pain that those taking a placebo. Other helpful herbs include agnus castus – to balance hormones, and milk thistle – to help your liver process oestrogen efficiently, allowing excess to be excreted (a good combination of these herbs which I use in the clinic is called Agnus Castus Plus, see the Resources Page).