October is a month dedicated to many special observances like breast health, specifically breast cancer awareness, and the color pink has coated the world, or at least the United States, and infiltrated just about everything in sight. Everyone’s wearing their cute little pink ribbons and the football players have on their pink bands or pink shoelaces (at least I think they are doing that again this year), and you can “fight breast cancer” every time you buy your groceries or books or “feminine napkins”, and even gas for your car (I’ll get to the irony of petrochemicals and breast cancer in a bit here)–it’s all so “pinkalicious” and everyone feels so great about themselves they’re practically pink with pride.
It’s admirable in a way, to see everyone so excited to join the ‘fight against breast cancer’. Many feel a great sense of responsibility and accomplishment when they donate their money to the ‘pink ribbon’ movement’, otherwise known as Susan G. Komen. It can feel so liberating to think breast cancer could be eradicated simply by sticking a pink ribbon onto your car, buying products that sported it or walked/ran in camaraderie with other women and families who had suffered from breast cancer and were now ‘racing’ together to find a ‘cure’ so others would not have to live through their nightmare. It’s hard to have to spoil all those grand intentions with the truth that maybe these great efforts aren’t actually doing much in the way of finding any cures and maybe are even indirectly adding to the problem. It would be much simpler and easier and feel a whole heck of a lot better to turn a blind eye and continue on the blissful pink path of ignorance. I could rant all day about what I don’t like about Susan G. Komen and those annoying pink ribbons but others have already done so, and much more eloquently than I have the time or energy for, here, and here. If you’ve been living in a cave and have no idea about the whole Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood debacle just plug those two words in together into your favorite search engine and you’ll quickly be brought back up to speed. You can also find other alternative breast cancer research groups that you can contribute to and be involved with without feeling like you’re compromising your soul here. I have a lot of things to rant about but recently I’ve decided to try and share helpful information as much as I can instead of just spewing out all the negative. As I’ve been working on this (I’d rather not admit how long) my friend Monica sent me an article and I found it so well written that I almost decided to just scrap my post and just send you to read how the Pink Awareness Program Turns Blind Eye to Cancer Risks. But I’ll still share some my thoughts and helpful information.
The problem is that pink ribbons do not carry magical powers and while all this abundance of pink certainly draws attention to breast cancer, the focus is placed too much on breast cancer detection instead of breast cancer prevention. This is isn’t too surprising since people, me included, tend to work more retrospectively versus preemptively with personal health and wellness—we’ll wait until we’re dying before we notice the huge gash in our head or that our right foot has been missing for a few weeks. This lack of attention on real prevention is part of what bothers me about the whole pink thing (aside from the moral element already mentioned). There’s too much superficial pink and not enough real ’green’ natural common sense.
Most breast cancer research and money goes mainly to find ‘cures’ and ‘treatments’ for women who already have breast cancer. (Which is important don’t get me wrong.) But, if we spent more time understanding and educating about the reasons for breast cancer and how to really prevent it we might actually start to see those breast cancer rates go down instead of going up as they are now even despite the inoculation of pink into every part of our lives.
While there is still so much to learn about breast cancer, and all cancer, there are a lot of simple things we can do towards prevention. Sadly, however, since these simple prevention methods generally can’t be patented and sold in mass quantities, those who put large profits above real health won’t go to much trouble to get the word out about these. And, at the risk of sounding completely cynical, if the big pharmaceutical companies and medical organizations and cancer research groups aren’t talking about real prevention methods, neither are most physicians and so neither will most women. Therefore, it’s our responsibility and duty to find this out on our own and help educate and inform other women about what they can do to prevent breast cancer for themselves, their daughters, their sisters, their mothers, their aunts, their grandmas, everyone. Aside from basic prevention methods like breastfeeding, having babies younger if possible and avoiding birth control pills and abortion (it’s not just a moral issue) here are some more helpful breast cancer prevention tips from Dr. Jennifer Kaumeyer at the Riordan Clinic in Wichita, Kansas.
“It is well known that women who are estrogen dominant are more at risk for breast cancer, as well as ovarian and endometrial cancers. Estrogen Dominance is a term that is used to describe the situation when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is too high. The is also what we call ‘bad’ and ‘good’ forms of estrogen. Keeping the ratio of good to bad estrogen at a healthy level is also key to preventing cancer.” Below she shares
The Four Main Causes of Estrogen Dominance…
- Overproduction of estrogen by the body and increased body fat…
- Overload on the liver. [The liver filters all the hormones. If there are too many ‘xeno-hormones (fake) coming in, the liver will be not function properly and things will get all clogged up]
- Chronic Constipation [an expected result of a clogged up liver]
- Exposure to estrogen—like compounds in our environment
She goes on to explain that most people, even men and children, suffer from estrogen dominance since it’s almost impossible to not be exposed to excess estrogens found in the environment. A few common signals that your body is suffering from this are “on-and-off sinus problems, headaches, dry eyes, asthma or cold hands and feet.” If you think your body’s hormone levels may be out whack, special hormone testing is highly recommended. Dr. Kaumeyer especially recommends this if you see signs of a hormonal imbalance and you have a family history of breast cancer or related issues like fibrocystic breast disease, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, irregular menstrual periods, PMS, fibroids and infertility. She says that “knowing your hormone levels is a first start. However, the nutrients you eat actually control how your hormones are expressed…knowing exactly what is happening in your body can help doctors condense your treatments, while at the same time, increasing their efficiency and effectiveness.”
Here are some tips she recommends you can do now to improve your health and “reverse estrogen dominance and reduce your risk of breast cancer”:
- Increase dietary fiber.
- Use dietary supplements
- Perform aerobic exercise [but don’t go crazy with it or you’ll end up where you started]
- Optimize your weight. Excess body fat results in conservation of estrogen. This may explain why overweight women are at a lower risk for osteoporosis; conversely they are at higher risk of breast and uterine cancer.
- Eat a very colorful diet.
She also provides some suggestions for avoiding and limiting the environmental xeno-hormones—fake hormones—while working on the above to “not only aid in the treatment of breast cancer but prevent its occurrence entirely.” Here’s a list of common causes of estrogen dominance (meaning that the levels are abnormally higher than the progesterone levels):
- Commercially raised cattle and poultry fed with estrogen-like hormones.
- Commercially grown vegetables that contain [mass amounts of] pesticide residues whose chemical structure is similar to [human] estrogen.
- Synthetic estrogens and synthetic progesterone (Progestin, Progesterone acetate and birth control pills). [my emphasis]
- Exposure to xenoestrogen petrochemicals in various consumer products.
- Hormone replacement therapy [HRT] with estrogen alone without progesterone.
- Over production of estrogen from ovarian cysts or tumors.
- Chronic constipation that causes the recycling of estrogen metabolites [the by-product of the hormones after they pass through the liver]
- Stress [that’s me!]—causing adrenal gland exhaustion and reduced progesterone output. Stress is one of the most frequently overlooked causes of estrogen dominance. [Again my emphasis for myself!]
- Liver disease, such as cirrhosis, that reduces the breakdown of estrogen.
- Vitamin B6 deficiency…
- Increased sugar intake [I love/hate sugar!]
- Intake of processed and fast foods that may be deficient in magnesium.
- Increase in coffee intake (and other caffeine sources).
Dr. Kaumeyer wraps up her list of advice about breast cancer treatment and more importantly prevention by reminding women to that a lifestyle of all work and no play that is full of stress is ultimately leading to cancer and other chronic disorders. So, in honor of all the women who have suffered from breast cancer and as part of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “remember to slow down, take some deep breaths, eat fresh, laugh a lot and HAVE SOME FUN!”