Updated: Oct 16, 2019
October is Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is such a prevalent and nasty diagnosis, unfortunately we all know someone and/or have been diagnosed ourselves with cancer. Wherever you stand in your journey, we should take this month to support those fighting cancer as well as focus on what we can do for cancer prevention.
While many organizations have moved to an overall "Cancer Awareness" month, October will always be known for specifically Breast Cancer Awareness. In this article we will focus on breast cancer, but many of the nutrition recommendations and resources stand for all cancers.
The majority of breast cancers, up to 80% are caused by estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is when there is too much estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), the “aggressive estrogens”, compared to estriol (E3), the “protective estrogen" in the body. Estrogen dominance can also occur if our body is not producing enough progesterone, which is has an inverse relationship with estrogen, meaning it can help keep estrogen in balance. The good news is that estrogen dominance is reversible and manageable. The bad news is that without preventative testing, this type of cancer often goes undetected until later stages.
A pooled analysis of data from 7 studies found higher blood estrogen levels increased breast cancer risk in pre-menopausal women. 
There are many factors that can contribute to estrogen dominance including toxin exposure, diet and lifestyle, nutrient deficiencies, environmental triggers, genetics, and poor detoxification. The image below shows common nutrient deficiencies linked with estrogen metabolism.
What Exactly is Cancer?
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer can develop when the body's normal control mechanism (the immune system) become overwhelmed and can no longer keep up with the body's demand. The old cells that should die and be excreted from the body, instead grow out of control and form new, abnormal cells. These extra cells can then form a mass of tissue, called a tumor. The tumor will grow in size after it forms its own blood and nutrient supply, known as angiogenesis. Cancer cells can also break away from the tumor and travel to a new location in the body through the blood or lymphatic system. This stage is known as metastasis.
What do the Stages Mean?
The American Joint Committee on Cancer created the TNM System for staging cancer. The stages range from 0 - 4 and are listed below. (2) Some cancers, including blood, lymphoma, and brain cancer will use their own staging system.
Stage 0 means there's no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer. This is also called carcinoma in situ.
Stage I means the cancer is small and only in one area. This is also called early-stage cancer.
Stage II and III mean the cancer is larger and has grown into nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
Stage IV means the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. It's also called advanced or metastatic cancer.
You can also listen to our podcast on this subject, https://www.lizriesen.com/podcast/episode/91101e97/cancer-and-nutrition
What is Remission?
Remission can mean mean a couple different things. Remission can mean the size of the tumor or amount of cancer cells have decreased by at least 50%. Remission can also mean cancer cells are no longer detected. Continuous monitoring is necessary and the decrease or elimination needs to last for at least one month to be labeled as remission.
It is important to keep in mind that remission does not mean cancer free. There can still be cancer cells present in the body that go undetected. A healthy diet and lifestyle plan that builds a strong immune system and supports detoxification in the body is crucial for the body's cells to be able to detect and eliminate these abnormal cells. This is the same goal for a cancer prevention diet and lifestyle.
Don't worry, there's more good news! For breast cancer, the average 5-year relative survival rate is 90% and the 10-year survival rate is 83%. (3) Treatments for cancer continue to improve early detection and survival rate. Along with treatments, we also need to focus on diet and lifestyle.
Foods to Help Fight & Prevent Cancer
Dr. William Li is a leading doctor and researcher in anti-angiogenesis foods. These are foods that have been studied in their ability to stop the growth of abnormal cancer forming cells. His research is exciting and promising! Here are some of the spotlight foods in cancer prevention.
Allium Vegetables: Garlic, Leeks, Yellow and Green Onions
Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Kale, Cabbage
Spinach and Dark Leafy Greens
Citrus: Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruit
Berries: Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries
Red Grapes and Cherries
Dark Chocolate (we're talking 85% cocoa content, or higher)
It is also important to manage other areas of your life to help in prevention, including: hydration, exercise, stress management, adequate sleep, decreasing toxin exposure, and regular lab monitoring.
Knowing your risks and supporting your body's immune system can help to prevent cancer from progressing into late-stage. Early detection through laboratory tests, annual screening, and self-breast exams can all help lower your risk.
Be Your Own Health Advocate
1. Self Breast Exams are important to perform regularly. Make it a goal once per month. Here is a great resource on how to properly conduct a self breast exam.
2. Hormone Panel - DUTCH Test
This is one of the most comprehensive tests that looks at hormone levels as well as hormone metabolism. The DUTCH Comprehensive Test is extremely simple to perform at home and mail back to the lab. Results can be complicated, so working with a skilled practitioner to interpret is recommended. You can find more information on the DUTCH test here.
Estrogens (E1, E2, E3)
3. Micronutrient Panel
Support your body's defense by detecting micronutrient deficiencies early. Learn more about the role of micronutrients in women's health and prevention.
If you have more questions on the cancer prevention diet and lifestyle, or questions on preventative health testing, please reach out to me.
In health and happiness - Liz