Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Should you remove your breasts to prevent breast cancer? Would sunlight/vitamin D and exercise be a better choice?

I just read—with horror—a discussion among cancer “experts” about one of the worst atrocities being committed by medicine: the removal of a woman’s breasts as a procedure to prevent breast cancer in women who are genetically susceptible to that disease. One of them stated that the procedure was “95% effective.” [1]

In other words, a woman who has no cancer, but who had close relatives who had cancer, might have both breasts removed as a prophylactic measure.

This idea makes me ill. Genetics do not doom a woman to breast cancer; rather, they determine whether the woman can handle a lifestyle that leads her to cancer. In other words, “good genes” help one to resist the toxic lifestyle they have chosen to live. “Bad genes” cannot resist the damage done by that lifestyle, and cancer results. If what I just said is true, then the best option is to remove the toxic lifestyle. Sedentary living, for instance, is toxic to the female breast. That can be overcome. For example, women who exercise four hours per week reduce risk by 37%; those who exercise and also maintain the leanest bodies reduce risk by an impressive 72%![2]

And what about sunlight and vitamin D? Women who supplemented vitamin D and calcium for four years had a reduced risk of all cancers of 60-77%.[3] It is also known that women who live in sunny areas and spend the most time in the sunlight reduce their risk of breast cancer by 65%.[4] Other research shows that women who have the highest blood levels of vitamin D reduce the risk by 69% compared with those who have the lowest levels.[5]

For more on breast cancer and vitamin D, see my previous post:

It has also recently been shown that an eating pattern high in meat, butter and margarine—“a food pattern characterized by high-fat food choices” doubled the risk of breast cancer when compared with those who ate low fat choices,[6] and other research has shown that the highest consumption of grapes, soy foods, green peppers and tomatoes all predict a 40% reduction in the risk of breast cancer.[7] It behooves all of us to eat our veggies and fruits. Alcohol consumption also increases breast cancer risk, so don’t get your grape consumption from wine!

When you are considering prophylactic measures against breast cancer, it might be a better choice to change lifestyle than to remove your non-cancerous breasts. Sunlight, exercise and avoiding junk food are kinder alternatives. Think about it!

[2] McTiernan, A. Exercise and breast cancer - time to get moving? Editorial NEJM 1997;336, 1311-12.
[3] Lappe, J. et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1586–91.
[4] John, E. et al. Vitamin D and breast cancer risk: The HANES 1 epidemiologic follow-up study, 1971-1975 to 1992. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 1999;8:399-406.
[5] Abbas, S. et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of post-menopausal breast cancer—results of a large case-control study. Carcinogenesis. 2008;29:93-9.
[6] Schulz, M. Identification of a dietary pattern characterized by high-fat food choices associated with increased risk of breast cancer: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam Study. Br J Nutr. 2008 Nov;100(5):942-6.
[7] Do, M. et al. Fruits, vegetables, soy foods and breast cancer in pre- and postmenopausal Korean women: a case-control study. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2007 Mar;77(2):130-41.

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