Making healthy choices every day is hard, there is no denying that, but I can tell you first hand that going through cancer treatment is harder than any workout, or changing the way you eat. Yet many people follow a path of unconscious decisions that lead them to the consequence of disease.
Being in the midst of Pinktober, aka, breast cancer awareness month, I want to be sensitive to those fighting the disease. I know the onslaught of pink can be encouraging for some, while for others, it can be painful to be reminded of the disease that has forever changed them. My first October after being diagnosed I was angry at being surrounded by pink, and the reminders that came with it. I didn’t want to be in the pink club, and I hated that I was that one in eight diagnosed with breast cancer. I also didn’t like retailers benefiting under the guise of awareness. Where was the money going, really, I wondered. But, this year I decided it is my choice to ignore the retailers promoting pink products and instead put my energy into education.
Cancer screening is important, and if awareness months are effective, people will be reminded to get their screenings done. But, to truly prevent cancer a person needs to make conscious choices every day that brings them further away from the path of a diagnosis.
What can you do? What are the choices on the path of prevention?
First, move. Walk (or run, or swim, or dance) the path, literally. If you are new to fitness, always talk with a doctor prior to starting, and start slowly. Physical activity helps with weight loss, or to maintain a healthy weight, and it strengthens immune defenses. For women, excess fat cells produce estrogen, which help cancer cells to form and spread. Maintaining a healthy weight is ideal in prevention of an original diagnosis, as well as a recurrence. The immune system plays an important role in preventing cancer, as well as other disease. It detects and destroys abnormal cells, and most likely prevents or curbs the growth of many cancers, as part of its normal function. So many reasons to make exercise a part of your daily routine!
The next step is to limit alcohol. Alcohol increases estrogen levels and impairs immune function. While red wine is known to have heart healthy benefits, you can get the same benefits from eating red grapes and without the cancer risk. The World Health Organization division of International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that all alcoholic beverages are carcinogenic to humans. For some, completely eliminating alcohol is not something they want to do, but limiting the intake to one serving a day is recommended.
What is it about estrogen?
We all have estrogen in our bodies, yes, even men. Despite the symptoms, post menopausal women have some amount of estrogen as well. When it comes to breast cancer, approximately 80% of breast cancers are hormone positive, including estrogen positive. This means the cancer has receptors that respond to, or feed off of, hormones. When you put excess amounts of that hormone into the body with food and alcohol (yes, we’re getting to the food), it can cause DNA damage, which is the first step towards cancer. Even if you choose organic, grass fed animal products, the animals naturally contain hormones and you ingest them.
If you haven’t already guessed, the third step in cancer prevention is to choose plant based foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds all lower the risk of cancer in several ways. Not only do plant based have the ability to lower estrogen levels, they also provide your cells with a nutritional armor that protects against mutations. There are a great deal of various compounds in plant based foods that create an anti-cancer environment, so much so that rather than go into detail I will link you to reliable sources. If you want to dive deep into the scientific reasons for plant based eating, specifically for breast cancer, I highly recommend the book: Breasts – The Owner’s Manual by Dr. Kristi Funk and her website, https://pinklotus.com/powerup/ Additional resources I trust are: https://www.pcrm.org/ and https://nutritionfacts.org/
If you currently consume a standard American diet, drink alcohol and don’t exercise on a regular basis, following the path to prevention of cancer will take time and effort. The changes don’t have to be done all at once. It’s a step by step process! It is truly a conscious choice every day, and having been through cancer treatment, I choose to make choices that will reduce my risk of going down that path again. My sincere hope is you will learn from my experience and make preventative choices for yourself.
This blog is dedicated to all those who have experienced cancer.