5 ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 28 September 2021

It is estimated that about 1 in 8 Canadian women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime and 1 in 33 will die from it, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Unfortunately year after year I am also seeing women younger and younger being diagnosed.

So prevention strategies are becoming more and more important.

This is an important topic for me personally because of my family history. I want to stack the deck in my favour because I can't change my genetic risk.

Genetics will load the gun, but lifestyle will pull the trigger"

So here are five ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer:

  1. Minimize alcohol intake

Did you know that alcohol is estrogenic? We spend a lot of time worried about soy and it being a phytoestrogen but there is very little concern placed on alcohol which is actually worse than soy it terms of its estrogenic properties.

Alcohol also inhibits the liver's ability to detoxify. That means it makes it harder for you to detoxify and remove estrogen from your body.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society the recommended alcohol intake for women should be 3-4 drinks a week.

2. Keep your hemoglobin A1C low

Hemoglobin A1c is a marker in your blood that measures glycosylated red blood cells over the past three months. It gives the doctor an idea of where a patient is on the spectrum of blood sugar abnormalities - insulin resistance, pre-diabetic, or diabetic.

So what does this have to do with breast cancer? Sugar raises insulin and creates a hormonal domino effect that knocks our sex hormones out of balance. The more insulin resistant you are, the more estrogen dominant you become.

3. Eat 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed a day

Ground flaxseed is a special fiber because it promotes the excretion of metabolized estrogen in your stool. If metabolized estrogen doesn't get excreted, it can be reabsorbed back into the blood stream. This can be a contributing factor to “estrogen dominance”.

4. Increase your consumption of cruciferous veggies

The cruciferous vegetable family, aka the Brassica family, is a diverse group of vegetables that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, brussels sprouts, collards, watercress and radishes.

One compound called Indol-3-Carbinol (I3C), found in this vegetable family, has a unique contribution to estrogen metabolism. I3C promotes the breakdown of estrogen into its healthy metabolites (2-OH) instead of dangerous pro-inflammatory and proliferative metabolites (4-OH and 16-OH).

5. Reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens

Xenoestrogens are chemical estrogens that bind up to 100X longer and stronger to estrogen receptors than our own naturally made estrogen. They are commonly found in non-organic food, plastics, personal hygiene and beauty products, and building supplies. They are also accurately called "endocrine disruptors".

The list of chemicals that are classified as xenoestrogens can be overwhelming and therefore trying to avoid them all is impossible. My advice? Start with a few small steps and you can reduce your exposure over time.

Here are a few that I started with:

-organic food box every summer

-no multi-use plastic water bottles or storage containers in my house

-never microwave plastic

-natural cleaning products eg. Norwex, Green Works, Saje

-natural sunscreen eg. Beauty Counter, Green Beaver, Sunblocz

-natural makeup (not that I wear a lot...lol!) eg. Beauty Counter

-no pesticides on my lawn (yep, I've got some weeds & dandelions)

-water filter for my drinking water eg. Santevia, Berky

Now I would love to hear from you! What is one strategy that you use to reduce your breast cancer risk? Leave a comment below and I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

2 Replies to “5 ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer”

Mary Jo Cassidy

What is a good way to ensure you get the 2 tbsps of flaxseed every day?

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

I usually add them to my smoothie or yogurt. I also make a ground flaxseed bread that has at least 1 cup per loaf.

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