Breast Health

Introduction to Breast Cancer

Breast cancer strikes more women throughout the world than any other type of cancer except skin cancer, and breast cancer incidence rates were up to 1 in 8 women as of 2008.  Based on scientific evidence, breast cancer is clearly a disease with many contributing risk factors. It is important to recognize the multiple and often interacting factors that influence the risk components. The cause of breast cancer is a complex web including an individual’s genetic material, what they consume, their activity level, lifestyle, reproductive history, and hormone profile as well as how much exposure they have had to radiation, chemical carcinogens, and synthetic chemicals. There are also different types of breast cancer, each with its own unique risks and best treatment options. The Balanced Body Center offers a comprehensive approach to finding the contributing factors of an individual’s breast cancer. We are uniquely positioned to help in the fight to overcome breast cancer with integrative and natural protocols.

Understanding Breast Cancer

1. Sign and Symptoms:

·         Painful Lump

·         Nipple Discharge

·         Redness of Breast

·         Dimpling of the Skin

·         Fatigue

·         Breast or Chest Pain 

2.  Risk Factors: 

·         BRCA Gene Mutation (10% of cases) associated with 40-85% lifetime risk

·         Began menstruating at an early age

·         Higher Bone Mineral Density (menopausal women)

·         Oral Contraceptive Pill and Hormone Replacement Therapy

·         Alcohol Use

·         Consumption: Obesity, High Starch Intake, Low Fiber Intake, Low Vegetable Intake

·         Sedentary Lifestyle

·         Chemical Exposure: Pesticides, PCB’s, DDT’s, Dioxins, Benzenes

·         Cigarette Smoke

·         Melanocyte Nevi (moles): Premenopausal women with 15+ nevi greater than 3 mm on one arm are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women who have no nevi (not a causal relationship, but likely a shared origin).

3.  Alternative/Adjunct Diagnostic Tool:

·         Thermography

·         Ultrasound

4. Types of Breast Cancer:

·         Luminal A – Estrogen Receptor Positive

·         Luminal B – Estrogen Receptor Positive

·         HER2 Positive – Estrogen Receptor Positive or Negative

·         Basal-Like Cancer – Triple Negative Cancer

5. Most Important Prognostic Markers:

·         Tumor Size

·         Presence of Malignant Disease in Regional Lymph Nodes

The risk of dying from breast cancer increases with the number of positive nodes. Fairly consistently, each additional diseased node adds a 6% risk of mortality.

6. Two Compartments Regarding Cancers:

·         The first compartment is the tumor itself and all that goes wrong in a cancer cell.

·         The second compartment is the body itself. The terrain in which the tumor is present affects the malignancy of the tumor to a large extent with co-influence and co-adaptation.

  The Balanced Body Center Approach to Breast Cancer

Diagnostic Biomarker Tests

1. Blood Chemistry:

 ·        Complete blood panels are necessary to discover the terrain in which the tumor lives, but some of the prognostic markers are highlighted below:

·         Vitamin D is a very important bio marker to look at for breast cancer. Individuals with insufficient vitamin D levels at diagnosis tend to have more aggressive cancers as opposed to those with higher vitamin D levels. People who have adequate vitamin D levels also have a lower risk of metastasis.

·         Circulating Tumor Cells are a good measure of the benefit of treatment if measured before and after treatment.

·         Genetic Polymorphisms, specifically COMPT, present in the blood show that these individuals are not able to appropriately metabolize their estrogens, which leave the estrogens in a highly mutagenic (quinones).

·         Insulin Growth Factor-1 in the world of healthy longevity and body-building can be a good thing, but it is detrimental in the world of cancer. IGF-1 is now recognized as responsible for a third of all breast cancer growth. An individual with IGF-1 needs a lower glycemic eating program as well as supplements and herbs that help the pancreas balance blood sugar levels.

·         C-peptide is a molecule made by the pancreas every time an insulin molecule is produced. Therefore, it is a clear measure of endogenous insulin production. C-peptide is associated with an approximately 50% risk increase of invasive breast cancer. Every 1 ng/ml increased C-peptide is associated with a 35% increase of death from breast cancer. Once again, we look at sugar lowering strategies and pancreatic help for this individual.

·         Galectin-3 molecules are “sticky” little particles produced by cancer cells to allow them to metastasize. They are a good marker for the metastasis potential.  Galectin-3 indicates the need for modified citrus pectin at 15g/day as well as immune enhancement with substances like beta-glucan, active hexose correlated compounds (found in certain edible mushrooms) and melatonin. 

2. Thyroid Testing: 

·         The thyroid should be assessed since there is an increased prevalence of autoimmune thyroid disease in patients with breast cancer.

·         Breast tissue competes with the thyroid for adequate iodine, and iodine deficient breast tissue is susceptible to lipid oxidation, a contributor to many diseases including cancer. Also, without adequate iodine, the breast tissue is subject to estrogenic stimulation. Because the breast tissue and the thyroid cannot function optimally without proper levels of iodine, thyroid testing is essential. 

3. Inflammation Biomarker Panels: 

Cancer is known to proliferate in chronically inflamed individuals, and there are several biomarkers that can be assessed to determine the level of inflammation, the cause, and how it can be treated. 

·         High Sensitive C-Reactive Protein

·         Ferritin

·         Fibrinogen

·         Interleukin-6 (due to the correlation between vascular endothelial growth factor) 

4. Gastrointestinal Function Testing: 

Improper digestive system function is a contributor to systemic inflammation and toxic overload. 

·         Food Sensitivity

·         GI Permeability

·         Systemic Yeast

·         Acid / Alkaline Balance 

5. Telomere Testing: 

·         Telomeres are the protective caps on the end of chromosomes. When they are abnormally short they are unstable and more likely to gain mutations and become malignant. People with cancer who have shorter telomeres also have an increased risk of dying from cancer. Telomeres can be lengthened with an increased level of telomerase which is stimulated by flavonoids and lifestyle changes.

6. Heavy Metal Toxicity Testing: 

·         Scientific evidence indicates that long-term exposure to some metallic compounds induces different forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Studies by scientists have widely demonstrated that exposure to heavy metals shares several primary mechanisms of toxicity, including the production of reactive oxygen species, reaction with intracellular thiols, and competition with essential metals in biological systems.

·         According to The Journal of Toxicology, lead was found to accelerate tumor growth rates. The same researchers found evidence that lead and other metals also interact with iodine, a vitally important essential trace element that most likely protects against breast cancer development.

·         Multiple reports show that metallic compounds function as estrogen disruptors and underline the connection between the exposure to metals or metal compounds and breast cancer risk. 

7.  pH Testing:

·         Acidity is a well-known factor associated with cancer. Lower pH levels in the extracellular space promote the invasive and metastatic potential of cancer cells.

·         Acid-base imbalance has been shown to increase systemic processes that serve as intermediary effectors of tumor promotion. 

8. Hormone Testing: 

Equilibrium, or homeostasis, of the endocrine system is imperative for proper immune up-regulation and protection against breast cancer risk and proliferation. 

·         Science has discovered evidence supporting a link between high lifetime synthetic estrogen exposure and increased breast cancer risk. New data suggests that maternal exposure during pregnancy increases breast cancer risk among daughters due to induced epigenetic modifications in the mammary gland and germ cells, thereby causing breast cancer risk through inheritance for multiple generations.

·         It has been proposed that exposure to psychological stress and stress-related cortisol release may be associated with increased breast cancer risk. A study showed that prolonged exposure to stress may facilitate tumor progression by suppressing the removal of genetically altered mammary epithelial cells by cortisol. 

9. Environmental toxicity testing

While the health concerns of our environmental changes are not fully understood, it is evident that there are many everyday chemicals that are harmful to our health. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of toxic chemicals through products like pharmaceuticals, pesticides, packaged foods, household products, and environmental pollution.  As we have become more exposed to chemical-laden products and to toxic chemicals in food, air, and water, we have been confronted with an accelerating rate of chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity, autism spectrum disorders, ADD/AD(H)D, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The Balanced Body Center offers the GPL-TOX test to evaluate for the presence of 172 different toxic chemicals including organophosphate pesticides, phthalates, benzene, xylene, vinyl chloride, pyrethroid insecticides, acrylamide, perchlorate, diphenyl phosphate, ethylene oxide, acrylonitrile, and more.  This profile also includes Tiglylglycine (TG), a marker for mitochondrial disorders resulting from mutations of mitochondrial DNA.  These mutations can be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, infections, inflammation, and nutritional deficiencies. 

Natural Strategies

The individual’s toxic load must be reduced to allow physiological systems to function at their optimum level. We cannot fight cancer effectively if our body is in toxic overload.

1. Body Weight: 

·         Excessive weight or obesity is responsible for one of every five individuals diagnosed with cancer in the United States.

·         A BMI over 30 in premenopausal women with estrogen receptor positive tumors increases their risk of dying from cancer by 34%.

·         Also, being too underweight increases the chance for recurrence of breast cancer.

2. Whole Food Meal Plan: 

·         Most processed foods contain sugar and chemicals that are toxic to the body.

·         Fat intake is not associated with breast cancer and higher total fat is associated with lower risk of lethal breast cancer. Saturated fats are not associated with lethal breast cancer risk. Fat does not play a role in causing advanced or aggressive breast cancers.

·         Meat consumption should be limited to natural sources such as grass-fed beef or organic poultry that has not been injected with hormones or antibiotics.

·         Individuals should consume plenty of vegetables and herbs/spices, choosing organic when available and washing or peeling when organic is not available.

3. Exercise: 

·         Regular physical activity has conclusively shown a reduced risk of dying from all causes and specifically from breast and colon cancer.

·         Vigorous exercise has now been shown to reduce breast cancer risk more than moderate exercise. Risk reduction is greater with less time spent on exercise if the exercise is more vigorous.

·         Women who engaged in 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, 5 days a week were shown to reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer by 25% compared with women who exercised less.

·         It’s not too late – research shows that women who were not exercising before being diagnosed with breast cancer and then started exercising had a 45% lower risk of dying from breast cancer than those who never increased their activity. 

4. Toxic Chemical Exposure: 

·         There are an estimated 80,000 synthetic chemicals used in the United States with only 7% that have been fully tested for their impact on human health. Reading labels and choosing chemical-free products is vitally important, especially if there has been a cancer diagnosis.

·         Cleaners that contain toxic chemicals can put an individual in toxic overload.

·         Beauty products, lotions, shampoos, etc., may contain hormone-altering chemicals.

·         Plastic and rubber products, carpets, etc. contain toxic chemicals.

·         The list is exhaustive, but avoiding toxic chemicals is a priority. 

5. Stress Reduction: 

·         Stress hormones bind to receptors on cancer cells and encourage proliferation.

·         Emotional stress not handled appropriately can lead to a physiological cascade of chemicals and hormones that are damaging to the body.

·         The CDC reported in 2013 that stress was the underlying cause of 80% of disease in America.

·         Individuals who are chronically stressed have an increased risk of breast cancer or any cancer for that matter.

·         Women who lead highly stressful lives with no good stress management techniques are at increased risk of progression, recurrence, and metastasis.

·         Life changes may be necessary to overcome breast cancer. 

6. Restorative Sleep: 

·         A study of Japanese women who slept less than six hours per night showed a 62% increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who slept more than 7 hours.

·         Current research is being done on night shift workers to determine the role of decreased melatonin levels and increased risk of breast cancer. 

7. Proper nutrient supplementation: 

There are many supplements that are beneficial to individuals with breast cancer. The recommendations are based on each person’s need, diagnosis, stage of cancer, type of breast cancer, and period of life. The Balanced Body Center is equipped to give individualized care. 

·         Cautions: Some multivitamins contain isolated beta-carotene, boron, and copper. Isolated beta carotene is associated with increase mutations in DNA. It is ok to ingest beta-carotene in whole food form. Boron elevates estradiol levels and should not be taken by individuals with estrogen receptor positive cancers. Copper facilitates angiogenesis which is not beneficial for those with cancer.

·         Green tea blocks oncogene formation. It is effective in early stage breast cancer but has no benefit in late stages. In a study, after only 30 days, women who took 40 mg of ECGC (found in green tea) had lowered their level of KI67 (a marker to determine proliferation of cancer cells).  Another study showed that women who drank 8 or more cups of green tea per day had a recurrence rate of only 16% while the group drinking 4 or less cups per day had a recurrence rate of 24%

·         Evidence suggests that the simultaneous administration of multiple phytochemicals is more effective than each one alone. The combination, in physiological relevant levels, resulted in a significant decrease in cellular proliferation, increased apoptosis, and decreased migratory and invasive capacity of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer cells. Curcumin, Genistein, Indol-3-Carbinol, Spirulina Platensis, combined with Selenium, Resveratrol and Quercetin were administered in the study.

·         Melatonin is one of the best studied natural substances in treating cancer. It has been shown to double survival rates and the time before another recurrence in individuals receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation. It also impacts longevity when taken continually post treatment.

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