breast cancer

  1. Watercress benefits – may protect against breast cancer

    If you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make sure you take advantage of as many watercress benefits as often as you can. It may just protect you against the cancer ever making a comeback. In fact, according to a new study, this tart leafy green starves out breast cancer cells and interferes with a major cancer pathway.

    Leafy green superfood protects DNA

    Watercress is a delicate leafy green that grows in spring water. It looks a lot like lettuce, but it actually belongs to the cabbage family. It‘s plentiful in iron, calcium, vitamin A and C and for thousands of years people have eaten it to stay healthy.

    In fact, ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans enjoyed watercress with their meals. I‘ve even read that Hippocrates -- the father of medicine -- built his first hospital next to a spring so that he‘d have easy access to all the watercress benefits.

    A few years back, scientists found that watercress has a lot of anti-cancer potential. In fact, in one study, men and women who ate a serving of watercress each day for eight weeks increased antioxidant levels in their blood. This is important because antioxidants remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body.

    Plus, these folks decreased the DNA damage to their white blood cells by almost 25 percent. And why is that significant? Well, according to Professor Ian Rowland, the study‘s lead researcher, "Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk." So, the more DNA damage there is to your white blood cells, the higher your cancer risk. But the watercress benefits seem to lower your overall risk.

    And, apparently, this is especially beneficial for women...

    Watercress benefits -- "shuts down" breast cancer delivery system

    The latest study looked specifically at how breast cancer cells respond to watercress.

    As you probably know, breast cancer tumors (like most malignant tumors) survive on nutrients delivered by your blood vessels. And as the tumor grows bigger, it needs access to more and more blood vessels.

    To solve this dilemma, the tumor sends a signal for your body to release a protein called HIF. This protein tells normal tissue to redirect their blood vessels into the hungry tumor. As a result, the tumor grows and spreads with nutrients delivered by the "stolen" blood vessels.

    But there‘s a plant compound proven to block the release of HIF and put a stop to all the frantic blood vessel growth...and that plant compound is found in abundance in watercress!

    Breast cancer survivors load up on watercress

    For the study, UK scientists recruited a small group of breast cancer survivors. The women agreed to eat 80 grams of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then give blood samples over a period of 24 hours.

    The research team discovered two things by analyzing the participants‘ blood samples. First, remember that helpful plant compound that blocks new blood vessel group? Well, after eating watercress, the women had lots of that compound in their blood.

    And that‘s not all...

    Remember that harmful protein -- called HIF -- that signals the body to send healthy blood vessels into malignant tumors? Well, the scientists found that HIF levels significantly dropped after the women ate the watercress. This means that any tumors trying to regain toe-hold in the body had another thing comin‘ after the women ate watercress.

    So, without a doubt, if you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make watercress a part of your weekly (if not daily) regimen. I hear that in Britain that‘s their favorite type of green vegetable.

    Look for it in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section, near the lettuce. It‘s got a small, delicate leaf that almost looks like a flower. Put it on sandwiches. Use it in salads. Or add it to soups, quiches, omelets, sauces and dips to experience all the watercress benefits. You can find tons of recipes on

  2. Fish oil supplements may help post-menopausal women slash breast cancer risk

    Be persistent and consistent with  fish oil supplements. It will be worth all the effort, especially if you're a woman. That's because a new study found that women who take fish oil for at least 10 years have a much lower risk of getting breast cancer.

    U.S. researchers asked 35,000 healthy, post-menopausal women about their supplement use. They found that many of women took specialty supplements as black cohosh, ginseng, and fish oil.

    Ten years later, 880 of the women developed breast cancer. But the women who took fish oil supplements for at least 10 years cut their risk of breast cancer by an impressive 32 percent! Researchers believe fish oil supplements are helpful to women because it reduces inflammation, a key factor in the growth of breast cancer.

    As far as I can see, there's only one thing missing from this fantastic study: Vitamin E. You always need to take vitamin E along with fish oil supplements. As I've said numerous times over the years, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil produce free radicals. But the antioxidants in vitamin E will zap any free radicals before they can cause any harm.

  3. Prevent breast cancer by eating a nice summer salad?

    Can eating a nice salad every night with dinner prevent you from ever developing breast cancer?

    You bet it can.

    You just have to make sure to sprinkle it with olive oil. Yes, I know olive oil is full of fat. And many women over a certain age would no sooner use olive oil than dye their hair blue. But here's the difference: Olive oil contains mono-unsaturated fats that are healthy -- even vital -- for you. And if you're a woman, it may even protect you against breast cancer.

    Truthfully, the fact that olive oil is good for you is nothing new. But here's what IS new: Now we know why. Recently, Spanish researchers uncovered the mechanism in olive oil that makes it so good for us: It blocks the activity of p21Ras.

    What's p21Ras?

    It's a gene that stimulates the growth and spread of breast cancer cells. So by "turning off" this gene, you block the cancer cells from ever taking hold. And olive oil does just that.

    Plus, researchers also discovered that olive oil protects the DNA in the cell nucleus. And this is really where cancer begins. It occurs when one tiny cell nucleus gets damaged. And then, instead of dying, this damaged cell multiplies. But olive oil protects the nucleus of your cells from ever mutating.

    So make sure you get a little olive oil every day. Your cells will thank you.

  4. Post-menopausal women lower breast cancer risk by following simple dietary guidelines

    According to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition eating lignans may modestly cut your risk of breast cancer, especially if you're a post-menopausal woman. Sounds great, right? But what's a lignan? Well, it's a nutrient found in whole grains, berries, fruits, and veggies. By far, flax seeds are the richest source of plant lignans. And a new meta-analysis (a giant mega-study that combines results from 21 different published studies) found that post-menopausal women who eat plenty of lignans cut their breast cancer risk by about 15 percent. So, for those of you already eating whole grains, fruits and veggies, think of it as an added bonus that you're probably lowering your breast cancer risk as well! And for those of you who aren't eating enough whole grains, fruits, and veggies - - this is just more reason to get going. Start by sprinkling a handful of ground flax seed on your Greek yogurt in the afternoon. Not only is it great for your immune system, it's an added safeguard against breast cancer.
  5. Beefing up your fiber

    You know fiber's good for you. It keeps the pipes running smoothly and keeps the laxatives on the shelf. Plus, according to many well-known studies, fiber helps protect you against colon cancer. But what about breast cancer? Does eating plenty of fiber play a role in preventing breast cancer as well? That's what scientists from the National Institutes of Health recently set out to discover. Are women eating enough fiber? Scientists asked 200,000 women to fill out a lengthy survey about their eating habits. Then they did some quick math to figure out each woman's daily fiber intake. Seven years later, the scientists checked back in on the women. More than 5,000 of them had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Did fiber intake play a role in preventing cancer? It sure did! Compared to women with low fiber diets, the women with high fiber diets decreased their overall risk of developing cancer. In fact, women with the highest fiber intake reduced their risk of developing certain types of breast cancer tumors by 44 percent. But is all fiber created equal? When most of us think of fiber, we think of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. But that kind of fiber, called insoluble fiber, really didn't help the women in the study very much. Instead, the women who ate the most soluble fiber got the most protection. This kind of fiber is found in foods like oats, nuts, barley, and flax seed. That certainly got me thinking. Why does soluble fiber provide more protection against breast cancer? We know that soluble fiber controls blood sugar and insulin better than insoluble fiber. Does that make a difference in preventing breast cancer? Or does it have to do with estrogen? We know that too much estrogen puts a woman at risk for developing breast cancer. Does soluble fiber help regulate estrogen in the body better than insoluble fiber? Clearly, this study raises lots of questions. And it may take years to figure it all out. But it definitely makes the case for eating more soluble fiber! So here's a little primer about how to get more into your diet... Soluble fiber facts Oatmeal makes a great breakfast high in soluble fiber. Plus, try to keep plenty of nuts around the house. They're high in soluble fiber as well as omega-3s. You can also get a decent amount of soluble fiber from apples, oranges, peas, pinto beans, brown rice, and carrots. All of these fiber rich foods will help fill you up and flush you out. Plus, they will help you metabolize sugar. They will also help keep your "bad" cholesterol in check. And they will even help you control the most nagging IBS symptoms. Stop counting fiber grams Some diets have you counting fiber grams. And most experts recommend getting 25-45 grams of total fiber per day. But I've never had to count fiber grams. That's because I eat lots of nuts, fruits, and vegetables. And I only eat unrefined grains like real brown rice, 100 percent stone ground whole wheat, dehulled barley, and steel-cut oats. (Be careful of the wolf dressed up in sheep's clothing. Any bread described as anything but 100 percent stone ground whole wheat isn't whole grain. And it's not going to do you any good.) In closing, let's hope these government docs have hit the nail on the head for once. It's good news, indeed, for women already eating plenty of fiber!
  6. Doesn’t anyone believe in prevention anymore?

    Some cancer researchers estimate that we could prevent up to 40 percent of new cancer cases in this country with better nutrition and simple lifestyle changes. I tend to agree. In fact, I‘d push those estimates even higher if you‘re talking about preventing colon, breast, and prostate cancer. The Chinese have known this for centuries. That‘s why two "super foods" have been part of their family meals for literally thousands of years. Of course, I‘m talking about mushrooms and green tea. It‘s not any big secret among followers of alternative medicine that these two foods build your immune system and can help protect you against cancer. But on main street U.S.A., the idea isn‘t setting off fireworks. And that‘s a shame, because literally hundreds of studies have shown that mushrooms and green tea can help protect you against cancer. Plus--a new study I just read about in the International Cancer Journal makes that claim even stronger. In this study, Australian and Chinese researchers showed that mushrooms and green tea--when consumed daily--can almost wipe out any risk you have of getting breast cancer. Here‘s how… Breast cancer rates slashed A team of scientists from the University of Western Australia and Zhejiang University, China studied the dietary habits of 2,000 women between the ages of 20 and 87. The women lived in an affluent part of southeast China and about half of them had breast cancer. The other half did not have breast cancer. Researchers asked these women about their daily consumption of mushrooms and green tea. Researchers found that the most common types of mushroom eaten were fresh white button mushrooms, Agaricus bisporus, and fragrant dried mushrooms, Lentinula edodes. They also surveyed other known risk factors, such as education level, weight, exercise, and smoking status. What they found was remarkable. The women who ate just 1/3 of an ounce of fresh mushrooms daily were 64 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. Plus--women who ate fresh mushrooms and drank green tea daily were about 80 to 90 percent less likely to get breast cancer compared to their counterparts who didn‘t consume the super foods. Wow... 80 to 90 percent less likely to develop breast cancer! And these women weren‘t even eating shiitake mushrooms, known to have anti-cancerous properties. They were eating regular old button mushrooms you can find in any grocery store in the U.S. That certainly got my attention. We‘re talking about non-toxic, non-drug options for preventing cancer. How can you argue with 2,000 years of experience fighting cancer? Green tea and mushrooms are traditional foods in China. They‘ve been served at family dinners for literally thousands of years. Clearly, this is a very healthy tradition. And that‘s because edible mushrooms (such as shiitake mushrooms) contain lentinian, a compound that boosts the immune system and prevents tumor growth. Green tea contains polyphenols called catechins that helps block the spread of cancer cells to healthy tissues. Is it any surprise, then, that women in China are 4 to 5 times less likely to get breast cancer compared to women in the U.S.? In China, only about 19 women per 100,000 get breast cancer. In the U.S., more than 100 women per 100,000 get breast cancer in their lifetime. Getting angry at the Genentech Of course, after reading about these powerful results among Chinese women, I got angry. What’s it going to take for health practitioners in the U.S. to get serious about preventing cancer with good nutrition? Does anyone in the U.S. really want to prevent cancer? Of course, I‘m a bit of a cynic. So I jump right on the money trail. Money--not lack of knowledge--is a big part of the problem. For instance, without a burgeoning cancer population, what would all the oncologists do? What would Big Pharma do if we all could prevent cancer naturally? Let‘s consider how much Big Pharma makes from just one of their cancer drugs. Two years ago, the New York Times reported that a colon cancer patient would have to fork over almost $100,000 a year to pay for Genentech’s new drug Avastin. That’s double the cost of the next most-expensive cancer drug. And now, two years later, Avastin is used to treat breast and lung cancer patients. This new "wonder drug" works by cutting off blood supply to cancer tumors. Just imagine the profits! Avastin pulls in more than $3.5 billion a year for Genentech. In fact, cancer drugs like Avastin rake in the most money for Big Pharma, second only to popular cholesterol-lowering drugs (like statins, which we covered in last week‘s Guide to Good Health: So--with such a hefty price tag, Avastin must save lives and cure cancer, right? Well, I‘m not so sure. Now that it‘s been on the market for a few years and we have more data to look at, the numbers don‘t look so great. Studies show Avastin only prolongs a cancer patient‘s life by a few months at best.
    Of course Big Pharma‘s out for money, but there‘s got to be somebody who still believes in prevention.
    Okay, what about the American Cancer Society? Don‘t they want to help you prevent cancer? Well, sometimes I wonder. Think about all the people they employ... the dinners, the daffodil sales, the golf tournaments. Are they really serious about preventing cancer or are they happy hosting their annual Walk for Life?! It‘s a legitimate question, especially after reading how so many Chinese women are preventing breast cancer naturally. Just how much does the ACS care about preventing cancer? According to their web site, they spent 18% of their funds (or $189 million) on prevention in 2008. Sure-- that‘s a lot of money. But in my book, it‘s not enough. Especially when you see that they spent more than that on their fundraisers. So I was wondering, what does the American Cancer Society have to say about mushrooms and green tea? Research abounds on these two nutritional powerhouses, so I ran a quick search on the ACS web site and decided to type the word "mushrooms" into their key word search. Any guess what I found first on their list of matches? It was an article dating from 3-28-2000. Yes, the article was positive. But it dated back almost 10 years, folks! So much has happened in that span of time. I hardly consider a 10-year-old marginally helpful article about mushrooms a real tool in preventing cancer.
    Okay, enough ranting for this week!
    It‘s time I step off my soap-box and give you some real tips for eating healthy that hopefully will keep cancer from ever taking hold in your body. Here‘s what I recommend:
    • Add mushrooms to your daily diet when you can. Toss them into salads, sautés, and stir-fries whenever possible.
    • Drink two or three cups of green tea a day. Go straight for the good stuff from an actual tea bag…not the sugary kind made by some of the popular manufacturers.
    • Limit red meat to 2-3 times per week. Choose only fresh meats that have been raised without hormones, pesticides and antibiotics. Avoid meats that have been cured, like bacon, ham and lunch meat as these contain nitrates, a known carcinogen.
    • Avoid processed foods (along the inside aisles of the grocery store) made with preservatives and food colorings.
    • Eat as much fresh produce as you can. Especially go for green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. Also, choose colorful foods like peppers, blueberries, and tomatoes. Shoot for eight to 10 servings per day.
    • Get plenty of fish into your diet.
    • Eliminate your intake of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar.
    That’s a good start. For more comprehensive dietary guidelines, look back at my Christmas list from 2008. Here‘s a link:
  7. Take more time for tea

    Women who regularly drink tea reduce their risk of breast cancer by 37 percent. That’s according to a new study out analyzing drinking habits of nearly 5,000 U.S. women between the ages 20 and 74. Women younger than 50 who drank three cups of tea or more per day reaped the most benefits. How does it work? Tea (especially green tea and black tea) contains powerful flavonoids and antioxidants. These compounds work to purify the body and eliminate free radicals. Over time, unchecked free radicals can cause serious damage to the body. But flavonoids and antioxidants neutralize the free radicals and can slow down the body’s aging process. In addition, tea promotes a kind of cell death called “apoptosis.” By promoting a natural turnover of cells, it blocks the uncontrolled growth and spread of cancer cells
  8. More problems with mammograms

    Turns out that mammograms are so uncomfortable, some women resort to applying topical anesthetic to their breasts before the procedure. Well, that’s got to stop, according to the FDA. Last week, this laughable government bastion of public health issued a statement advising women to tough it out. Topical anesthetics (like lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and prilocaine) when applied over the skin can “cause serious and life-threatening adverse effects when used under certain conditions.” Evidently, two women died in 2007 from applying lidocaine to their skin before a laser hair removal session. So wait a minute…isn’t a “topical” anesthetic supposed to be applied to the skin? There goes the so-called secret to a “gentler” mammogram. Turns out there’s no such thing…unless you want to risk “life-threatening adverse effects.” So what’s a girl to do? Back in 12-11-08’s Guide to Good Health, I told you about a safer, highly accurate, and certainly less painful test to detect breast cancer. It’s called thermography and it works like an ultrasound. If you can find one in your area, thank your lucky stars. They’re hard to find. But definitely worth a drive. And definitely worth a little research on your end. Here’s the link again: Remember, many professionals estimate that thermograms detect the “potential” to develop breast cancer up to 10 years before conventional methods find a lump. And no topical anesthetic required!

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