Almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer, some are friends and family or maybe just acquaintances, but we all seem to know someone that’s gone through this horrific disease. We’ve come a long way with research and development of cancer treatments and a lot has to do with the relentless awareness that we emphasize today.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, an international campaign aimed at increasing awareness of breast cancer, with the goal of someday halting or preventing it.
The month of October has become a national recognition for awareness and it has never been so prominent. The awareness is evident, we see pink ribbons in many places, there are articles written every day and social media has been a valuable tool as well. But, could we be more knowledgeable of taking preventive measures. The answer is yes… and it will always start and end with the topic of our diet. This really isn’t a secret anymore for most, but more people need to know the connection and the history between our diet and breast cancer.
Milk and other dairy products are the top sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet. Milk products also contain cholesterol. Diets high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, which remains America’s top killer. Cheese is especially dangerous. Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat.
The most obvious connection in our diet is between dairy and breast cancer. Dairy cheese contains reproductive hormones that may increase breast cancer mortality risk.
Dairy products also contain traces of estrogens from cows, and as milk is converted to cheese, the estrogens are more concentrated. While they are only traces, they appear to be biologically active in humans, increasing breast cancer mortality.
The Life After Cancer Epidemiology study found that, among women previously diagnosed with breast cancer, those consuming one or more servings of high-fat dairy products (e.g., cheese, ice cream, whole milk) daily had a 49 percent higher breast cancer mortality, compared with those consuming less than one-half serving daily.
A 2017 study funded by the National Cancer Institute that compared the diets of women diagnosed with breast cancer to those without breast cancer and found that those who consumed the most American, cheddar, and cream cheeses had a 53 percent increased risk for breast cancer. The authors say that components in dairy such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and other growth hormones may be among the reasons for the increased risk for cancer.
Also, a large study published by the British Journal of Cancer identified 22,788 people who were lactose intolerant and found that those who avoided dairy in this study, due to the intolerance had a lower incidence of lung, breast and ovarian cancers than their family members who did not avoid dairy. The key note here is the study was within the family, so similar genetics were a factor. The researchers suggested that avoiding the saturated fat and extra hormones found in dairy products was protective against certain types of cancer, noted above.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, breast cancer is among the most common causes of death in women. In 2016, the latest year for which incidence data are available, 245,299 new cases of female breast cancer were reported, and 41,487 women died of breast cancer in the United States.
So, we have all the numbers and studies, what are we doing now?
A group named “The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine”—a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members—is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to require cheese manufacturers to prominently display on all dairy cheese product “Dairy cheese contains reproductive hormones that may increase breast cancer mortality risk.” That’s the warning label that The petition submitted on Oct. 3, we will update you on that progress in the weeks ahead. This could be groundbreaking. Just look what the warning label did to the tobacco industry…the public learned about the negative effects and now a small fraction of adults today smoke, compared to 50% of adults, 50 years ago.
Another note from the petition, by The Physicians Committee–To ensure that Americans understand the potential significant risks, and resulting long-term costs, of consuming dairy cheese products, the FDA should ensure that the notice above is prominently placed on product packaging and labeling for all dairy cheese products,” says the petition.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2019 are:
- About 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 62,930 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 41,760 women will die from breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, risk factors for breast cancer include diet and lifestyle factors: lack of exercise, a diet high in saturated fat, and more than two alcoholic drinks per day can all increase your chances of getting the disease. Being obese or overweight also increases the risk, so it’s a good idea to follow a healthy meal plan and exercise regularly.
BRCA stands for BReast CAncer gene. You can pronounce it “brah-kuh” or you can say “B” “R” “C” “A”. When we talk about BRCA1 and BRCA2, we are speaking the language of human genetics.
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