Breast cancer is the second most common kind of breast cancer in women between the ages of 25 and 75 years (skin cancer is number one). It is also the second most common cause of cancer death among women, with only lung cancer claiming more lives. (Source: Ammer, 2005) Like other forms of cancer, breast cancer is caused by abnormally developing cells and is usually treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of the three. Early detection is the key to a more positive outcome in most cases and there are steps that women can take before breast cancer develops, as well as after it has been diagnosed. Knowing your risk factors for breast cancer is crucial, however maintaining a healthy diet is also vital, both to those who do not have cancer and to those who are fighting their way back from it.
Knowing Your Risks
There are over 15 different types of cancer under the blanket heading “breast cancer” and any structure in the breast can be stricken. Most breast cancers tend to spread, typically to the lymph nodes. The most common type of breast cancer is the invasive duct carcinoma which starts in a breast milk duct and then invades the fatty breast tissue itself. This fast growing cancer accounts for 70-80% of all breast cancers. (Source: Ammer, 2005) Risk factors for breast cancer include family history and genetics, age, exposure to estrogen and whether or not you have had a child.
It is also important for women to have the necessary breast cancer screenings, including breast self-examinations every month at home, clinical breast exams performed by the doctor during regular exams, mammograms done every one to two years between the ages of 40-49 and every year thereafter. There are other breast cancer screenings that can be done for those who are deemed high risk and a breast ultrasound might be more advisable for those who have very dense breast tissue that may keep mammography from delivering complete readings.
Between 80-95% of all breast cancers are detected by the women themselves during routine self breast examinations. Again, the best treatments cannot be utilized if the breast cancer is not found and diagnosed, so not only are the exams important, but the other testing is as well, even for those who do not have any of the known risk factors.
Best Diet and Supplements to Reduce Breast Cancer Risks
All of the research in recent years has focused on the treatment of breast cancer once it is already established, however there have been a number of studies that show some environmental links to who does and does not get cancer. Those who focused on a healthy, Mediterranean style diet were less likely to get cancer. Japanese women who ate traditional Japanese style diets were also less likely to develop breast cancer until they started to eat more saturated fats and red meats. Shayne Robinson, a registered dietician in New York City, recommends a plant based diet, focusing on the various colors of the rainbow for the most protection and opting for whole grains whenever possible. (Source: Fitness Magazine, October 2009)
Super Food, Super Supplement: Soy
Soy is not just some hippy food meant only to create meat substitutes for vegetarians and vegans. It is a versatile food available in a number of forms. From soy milk to soy protein powder supplements and tofu, there are countless ways to get more soy into the diet and many of them have been proven by countless studies to help in the prevention of breast cancer. Not only is soy the only plant based complete protein (it has all eight essential amino acids), but it also supplies phytoestrogens, Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Potassium, Folate, Magnesium and Selenium.
Soy is also not a new discovery, despite the fact that many people do not know what it is or any of its forms. Soybeans, from which all soy products are derived, have been grown in China since around the 11th century B.C. Benjamin Franklin may be the reason that soybeans were brought to the United States after he was introduced to tofu.
Not only is it a good alternative protein source, it is also a good source of calcium, especially for people who are lactose intolerant. Soy protein supplements are good not only for these people, but also for vegetarians or vegans. Soy is good for cancer protection, especially for those who consume around one and a half servings every day.
Soy has a number of components that work toward reducing cancer:
– Lignins: Works to bind carcinogens (cancer causing cells) in the colon, making them go through the system faster. The faster they are removed from the body, the less damage that they will do.
– Saponins: Phytonutrients boost immunity and fight cancer.
– Protease inhibitors: Block the activity of enzymes that cause cancer (proteases), reducing the risk of cancer; may also suppress carcinogens.
– Phytic acid: an antioxidant which may bind with and eliminate the heavy metals in the body that can lead to the growth of tumors.
– Phytosterols: May help prevent colon cancer.
(Source: Pratt and Matthews, 2004)
Other Foods That Might Work: Combining foods like ground flaxseed and berries, yogurt, or cottage cheese gives protection against breast cancer as well as prostate and colorectal cancers. Tea combined with tofu can stop cancer before it gets started (Source: Magee, R.D. 2008).
Supplements Powders: Soy and Beyond
Soy protein powder comes in two types: concentrate and isolate. Both are complete proteins. Soy isolate powder has the highest amount of protein in it and is highly digestible. Soy protein is good for vegans and vegetarians.
Whey protein powder is derived from milk, a byproduct of cheese. It is also available in a concentrate and isolate form with the isolate having around 90% protein and far less fat. For those who are mildly lactose intolerant, whey protein isolate may be tolerable. It is an optimal source of amino acids, however is not appropriate for vegans. Vegetarians who consume dairy products can use whey protein supplements.
Egg protein powder is made from egg whites, the perfect protein. It is the highest source of amino acids: alanine, argine, glycine and methine. Egg protein is not appropriate for the vegan.
Rice protein is made from brown rice and is a complete protein. It is the only of the protein powders that is considered to be hypoallergenic and is also appropriate for those who are vegan or vegetarian (Source: Segounis).
Those who are dealing with breast cancer may find themselves with a loss of appetite as well as extreme stress and worry about the future. The need to keep up their health is still important and using protein supplements may be a good idea for many reasons. In addition to the powders, there are protein bars and liquid protein supplement shots. Profect, the liquid shot from Protica, is a good choice because it is small enough to be carried anywhere and is low in calories with 100 calories in 2.9 fluid ounces.