Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and the third most common cancer around the world. It can also occur, albeit rarely, in men. As with prostate cancer, rates are increasing globally, especially in developed countries. And this is where our clues to getting a handle on this illness begin-with environmental factors, especially diet.
A woman’s breast consists of glands that produce and secrete milk after the birth of a baby. The breast itself is made up of lobules (glands that make breast milk); ducts (tubes that connect the milk-producing glands to the nipple); and fatty, connective lymphatic tissue.
Most lymphatic vessels of the breast lead to lymph nodes under the arm and are called axillary nodes. Most doctors believe that cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes has a chance of spreading to other organs, making immediate treatment necessary. Modern cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and drugs are slowly improving, but we’re still attempting to fully understand the disease, especially in regard to preventive measures. However, we’ve gathered many valuable clues.
We cannot change the genes we’re born with, but, luckily they appear to play a minimal role in most cases of breast cancer. About 5 to 10 percent of cases can be blamed on genes passed from either a mother or a father to the next generation. On the other hand, if no one in your family has had cancer, it doesn’t mean you are fully protected. Eight in ten women who develop breast cancer do not have a sister or a mother who has had it. With that in mind, it’s wise for all women to protect themselves.
Cancer of the breast is usually related to hormones, so all women, regardless of family history, will benefit from keeping hormone levels in check. Hormone preparations commonly given to women after menopause clearly increase the risk, so the non-drug methods for controlling hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms are much preferred. And, as you know by now, diet can have a dramatic effect on hormones. As fatty foods increase the amount of estrogen in the blood, breast cells are stimulated and divide. With every multiplication in cell number, the likelihood that one will turn cancerous increases, but this is easy to alter. By simply eating a low-fat diet of high-fiber vegetables, grains, and other natural plant foods, estrogen levels fall.