Breast Cancer prevention

• Saturated fat has for years been said to promote the development of breast cancers that occur in later life, but not the early-life cancers. Although study after study in the research laboratory has pointed to this dietary fat -cancer connection in animals, recent medical investigations in people appear to contradict this long-held view. The reason for the contradiction may lie in the fact that a diet of high calories promotes breast cancer, too. And in the real world, the two usually occur together—it's hard to eat a diet high in fat that isn't also pretty calorie rich. Also, we humans rarely eat just fat; no one would crave a big glob of butter or lard by itself. But mix that butter with powdered sugar and what do you get? Cake frosting.

Breast Cancer preventionThat, we sweet-toothed Americans will definitely eat. So the human fat-breast cancer connection has been confounded over the years because dietary fat occurs with calories and with sugar—both suspect in promoting cancer themselves—much of the time. So where does that leave you in trying to reduce your risk? Recommendation: Don't overeat. Reduce your intake of fatty meats and egg yolks (not whites). Reduce total calories to a level that will let you reach and then maintain your ideal weight and body-fat percentage. Refer to the discussion in Section we on macronutrients for dietary guidelines and to the section on calculation of lean body weight. Strive for an approximate body-fat percentage of 15 to 20% if you are male and 22 to 28% if you are female. The two sources mentioned for calculation of lean body weight will also describe how to calculate your body-fat percentage.

• Alcohol increases your risk of several cancers, including breast cancer. Even moderate levels (3 or more oz. of alcohol per day) can increase the risk. Although less potent in alcohol content, beer drinking appears to increase your risk of developing breast cancer (or of having a breast cancer recur) than distilled spirits. Recommendation: If you have a family risk for breast cancer or have survived breast cancer yourself, reduce or eliminate your consumption of alcohol. A level equivalent to 1 glass of wine or 1 ounce of distilled liquor no more often than 3 times weekly is probably safe.

• Sugar promotes the development of breast cancers in both animals and people. Reducing intake of sugar is especially important when you live in America, where sugar contributes more calories to the diet than any other substance—more than meat, more than milk, more than vegetables. Recommendation: Sharply reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet. This means table sugar that you sprinkle on, sugar added to commercially prepared foods, corn syrup, molasses, and honey. Don't be misled into thinking that just because it's "natural" or "raw" sugar or that a bee makes it it's not every bit as damaging to your health risk. Use sugar with great caution—respect it for the potent chemical that it is.

• Iron. Cancer cells need nutrition to grow, and one of the critical nutrients they appear to need is iron. One hypothesis suggests that taking increased iron may increase the chances that cancer cells can survive your immune system's defenses and flourish. Recommendation: If you have a family risk for breast cancer, of if you are a breast cancer survivor, we would recommend that you not add any additional iron to your diet unless you are truly iron deficient and anemic.

• Eating a diet containing greater than 30 to 35% of calories as polyunsaturated fats, such as commercially prepared corn oil and safflower oil, may have a weakening effect on the immune system and may thus worsen your risk of developing breast cancer. Eating the same amount of calories as fat, but keeping approximately equal portions of polyunsaturated fats (corn oil, safflower oil, some vegetable oils) to monounsaturated fats (olive oil, fish oil, evening primrose oil) to saturated fat (butter, milk fat, animal fat) is less damaging. The problem arises because the polyunsaturated oils are chemically unstable, making them easy targets for damage by oxidation. (Refer to the discussion of oxidation in Section we, pages 18-19.) If you eat a diet in which the majority of your fat and oil consumption comes from these polyunsaturated sources, it increases your body's need for antioxidant protection, such as you would get from vitamins C and E. Without this protection, a high intake of polyunsaturated fats and oils can damage your tissues and your immune function, and thereby increase your risk for breast cancer.

Also, to keep these chemically unstable oils on the consumer shelf longer without "going bad," food manufacturers usually heat them to high temperatures. This heating rearranges the chemical structure of the oil molecules, creating new compounds and more stable oils, but ones that recent scientific research suggests may be cancer promoting themselves. This same kind of heating damage occurs at extreme cooking temperatures—such as would occur in deep-frying. Recommendation: Choose cold-pressed virgin or extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil for your cooking and baking needs. Try to include more cold-water fish (tuna, mackerel, herring, salmon) to provide a counterbalance to the polyunsaturated oils. See the recommendations about vitamins C and E. And don't deep-fry your food.

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Breast Cancer
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