Approximately one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer within their lifetime. In this year alone, it was estimated that over 230,000 cases of invasive breast cancer and more than 60,000 non-invasive cases would be diagnosed.[1] When you consider these statistics, you can understand the concern that many women have each year at their annual examination. Moreover, those with a history of breast cancer in their families may be affected by the fear every single day.

To help get in front of this deadly disease, many women are choosing to have one or both breasts surgically removed, a procedure known as prophylactic mastectomy or, in simpler terms, a preventative mastectomy. This procedure became a topic of nationwide conversation a couple of years ago when Angelina Jolie announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy after discovering she carried a mutated BRCA1 gene that increased her chance of breast cancer to 87%. Doctors will consider preventative mastectomy for patients who have inherited a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

While life expectancy has proven to increase by a quarter to a half of a year for those with breast cancer who have the procedure[2], a preventative mastectomy isn’t 100% effective in preventing the disease or its recurrence. Additionally, patients should take into consideration the possible negative impacts of a mastectomy including complications or infections from surgery, diminished self-image and decreased sexual pleasure.[3], [4]

All of this information may sound damming, but women should know that a safer alternative exists in epigenetics.

The term epigenetics may give the impression of a medical procedure, but it actually refers to your ability to affect whether or not you get cancer by consuming the nutrients you need and living the life required to prevent it. Essentially, we can influence the turning off or on of a gene simply through the things we put in our body and the situations we put it in.

For example, consider the diet of Asian Americans, whose women population with breast cancer is the least in a comparison of five races and ethnicities.[5] The traditional Asian diet is full of soy – soybeans and soy-based foods like soy sauce, miso, and tofu. A 2012 study suggested that, for breast cancer patients, soy intake is associated with longer survival and low recurrence.[6] Another study completed in 2012 found decreased breast cancer risk with a high consumption of soy protein, with the highest consumption providing significant reductions in comparison to the lowest consumption.[7]

One more staple of the Asian diet is green tea, which has also been linked to breast cancer prevention. In a 2003 study, a significant trend of decreasing risk of breast cancer was reported with an increasing amount of green tea intake.[8]

In regards to lifestyle, it’s critical that we avoid tobacco products and minimize alcohol. A 2011 Harvard study observed a modest but significant association of breast cancer risk even at a low level of alcohol consumption, equivalent to three to six glasses of wine per week.[9] Instead, use your free time for physical activity, since a 2011 study reported an average 25% reduction in the possibility of getting breast cancer when comparing physically active women to least active subjects.[10]

There are many other nutrients and lifestyle considerations for helping reduce your chances of breast cancer. Should you wish to discuss this topic in more detail or begin a personalized plan for breast cancer prevention, contact me. I’m a holistic health coach with a medical background, who wants nothing more than to see you live a healthy, cancer-free life.

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