~ Waking the Warrior Goddess, Christine Horner, MD, FACS (3rd Ed.2013)
Early detection of breast cancer is certainly critical, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As noted in Part 1 of this two-part primer, an ideal approach to breast cancer prevention incorporates various healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet and weight management, daily exercise, toxin reduction, and harmful habit elimination. Nutritional supplements can also contribute by bolstering the immune system, lowering inflammation, and activating tumor-suppressor genes that trigger the normal death of defective cells.
Evidence-Based Protective Nutrients
Scientific studies substantiate the potential of the dietary supplements discussed below to lower the risk of breast cancers that grow in response to the hormones estrogen and progesterone [respectively called estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+), about 70% of all breast cancers, and progesterone-receptor-positive (PR+), about 87% of all ER+ breast cancers], and those that are not hormone-dependent.
Calcium D-Glucarate: The liver produces glucuronic acid, which binds to various toxins, including harmful estrogen, and deactivates them. The body then excretes the toxic complex in the bile. Beta-glucuronidase is an enzyme that bacteria in the colon produce, which breaks the glucuronic acid-estrogen bond and reduces estrogen elimination from the body. Excessive beta-glucuronidase activity is thus associated with an increased risk for estrogen-dependent breast cancer. While foods containing D-glucaric acid (organic apples, lettuce, cruciferous vegetables) help lower beta-glucuronidase activity, preliminary research has shown that calcium d-glucarate is just as effective as natural d-glucaric acid, and presents no known side effects or drug interactions.
DIM (diindolylmethane): Glucobrassicin in cruciferous vegetables is the precursor to Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which in turn is the precursor to DIM. While researchers maintain that more human research addressing its mechanisms and dosing is warranted, studies indicate that DIM (especially highly bio-available BR-DIM®) protects the body against xenoestrogens, harmful compounds discussed in Part 1, and estrogen-dependent breast cancer. DIM has been proven to exhibit direct anti-cancer effects by promoting DNA repair, accelerating cancer cell death, stimulating the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, and depriving cancer cells of their blood supply.
Ground Flaxseeds/Flaxseed Oil With Lignans: Abundant animal studies have demonstrated that multiple flaxseed components are breast cancer protective: (1) alpha-linolenic acid – low levels of this omega-3 fatty acid have been found in breast cancer patients, and to be associated with the spread of breast cancer into lymph nodes; (2) lignans – compounds that provide many plants their stiff structure that are most abundant in flaxseeds than in any other edible plant; antioxidants that are weak phytoestrogens which decrease estrogen production, block environmental estrogens from binding to estrogen receptors (like the cancer drug Tamoxifen), and promote production of protective estrogen; (3) soluble and insoluble fiber – a high-fiber diet reduces risk for breast cancer by up to 54%, and 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds contain approximately 6 grams of fiber.
Medicinal Mushrooms: Extensive research has established that many cancer-fighting chemicals give multiple medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi, maitake, and shiitake, the power to protect against breast cancer through various mechanisms. The so-called D-fraction extract from the maitake mushroom, a proven tumor cell killer, is one source of a complex sugar (polysaccharide) called “beta-glucans” that activates the immune system’s macrophages, T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. (Maitake also counteracts the immune weakening impact of chemotherapy.) Reishi mushrooms stimulate various immune cells, prevent growth of new blood vessels to tumors, and suppress the spread of cancer to surrounding tissues. While eating medicinal mushrooms provides benefits, their extracts in the form of dietary supplements are far more potent agents for breast cancer prevention.
Melatonin: The pineal gland in the brain produces this serotonin-derived hormone and powerful antioxidant that induces sleep and regulates sleep patterns. This supplement protects against breast cancer by: (1) slowing estrogen’s production, preventing its overproduction, and blocking its stimulatory effect on breast cells; (3) opposing cell division; (4) blocking blood vessels from supplying blood to tumors; and (5) enhancing the tumor-fighting power of vitamin D.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil): Although researchers have generally determined that the predominant driving force in breast cancer is hormonal, other factors such as inflammation have also been recognized as having an important role. Researchers in a 2018 Canadian animal study concluded that marine-sourced, omega-3 fatty acids are roughly eight times more effective than those from plants in preventing breast tumors and halting their growth. These fats block all inflammatory pathways, cause cancer cell death, slow cell division in response to estrogen, stop the flow of new blood vessels to tumors, decrease breast density, and reduce risk of metastasis. Fish oil supplements should be molecularly distilled or pharmaceutical grade, cholesterol- and contaminant-free, enteric coated (to promote maximum absorption and proper digestion), and taken in divided doses with a meal.
Polyphenols (Grape Seed Extract(GSE)/ Resveratrol/Green Tea): These natural compounds, found abundantly in a wide variety of foods, combat inflammation, cell oxidation, and tumor cell growth.
Scientists recognize that polyphenol research is a promising field specifically in the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Since GSE inhibits aromatase, the enzyme that converts androgen to estrogen, it is considered important in the prevention of ER+ breast cancer. Both lab and human studies have proven that resveratrol (the polyphenol in red wine and Japanese knotweed), is also particularly protective against ER-positive breast cancer. Studies have shown that green tea polyphenols, especially EGCG, inhibit the growth of both hormone-dependent and hormone receptor-negative breast cancers.
Progesterone Cream (Natural, Transdermal): Although some uninformed practitioners may not agree, recent studies show that progesterone treatment protects against ER-positive breast cancer. Specifically, when breast cancer cells have working progesterone receptors, and sufficient progesterone is available, progesterone will slow down estrogen-fueled growth and division of cancer cells. In What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer: How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life, the late John R. Lee, M.D., stated that natural, bioidentical progesterone cream supplementation can slow and stop breast cancer by reestablishing the levels of bioavailable progesterone that your body would normally make and oppose the undesirable, cancer-causing effects of estrogen. Select a standardized natural product that contains a total of 900-1,000mg of progesterone in two ounces, or approximately 20 mg in ¼ teaspoon.
Vitamin D3: Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased breast cancer risk. A recent review of the scientific literature has concluded that better designed and randomized clinical trials are needed to address the association of vitamin D level with breast cancer risk, development, recurrence, and survival at different disease stages. Yet, it is well-established that this steroid turns genes “on” and “off” and protects against breast cancer by: (1) making breast cells more resistant to toxins; (2) decreasing the ability of breast cells to divide; (3) causing the death of tumor cells; (4) inhibiting blood flow to tumors to prevent their development; (5) boosting immunity, especially by activating NK cells; (6) reducing inflammation; and (7) lowering estrogen production.
While many factors impact whether a woman will develop breast cancer, living a healthy lifestyle and taking protective dietary supplements are potent measures that can reduce risk and increase peace of mind.
The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, are for educational purposes only, and are not intended to take the place of a physician’s advice.
Submitted by Erika Dworkin, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®, Nutrition Consultant and Owner of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe (860.646.8178, 378 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester, CT, www.cthealthshop.com), nutrition specialists trusted since 1956. Erika is available to speak to groups.
All statements in this article are evidence-based and references are available upon request.