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What If You Could Slash Your Risk of Breast Cancer by 50%?

Susanna Sisson's picture
Prevent breast cancer and decrease risk

October is breast cancer awareness month and many women are wondering if there is anything they can do to lower their risk of breast cancer, especially since that risk is 1 in 8.


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012 and second most common cancer overall after lung cancer, and accounts for approximately 12% of all new cancer cases and 25% of all cancers in women. [1]

What are the economic costs? The economic burden for both direct costs and indirect costs for breast cancer is estimated to be $209 billion. In the US the cost averages $66,000 annually in medical claims for those who are insured. Total cost of medical treatment can be as high as $300,000 or higher. Indirect costs such as lost wages, childcare, or travel also place economic stress on women and families. [2]

Risk factors of breast cancer beyond our control

Family history - Women with close relatives who've been diagnosed with breast cancer have 50% higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Age - About two out of three invasive breast cancers are found in women 55 or older. However in women under 30 who typically have more aggressive breast cancers the rate of death is higher.

Genetics – Everyone has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which are responsible for cellular repair and normal growth. However they can mutate and be passed on to offspring. Abnormal BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may account for up to 10% of all breast cancers, or 1 out of every 10 cases. Women with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene also have an increased risk of developing ovarian, colon, pancreatic, and thyroid cancers, as well as melanoma. There are also other genetic mutations that have been linked to breast cancer. For a full list click here.

Men who have an abnormal BRCA2 gene have a higher risk for breast cancer than men who don't -- about 8% by the time they're 80 years old. This is about 80 times greater than average. They are also 7 times more likely to develop prostate cancer. [5,6]

Gender – Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer but it is also possible for men to have the disease. There are about 190,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 60,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer this year in American women. [6]

Ethnicity - White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American, Hispanic, and Asian women. But African American women are more likely to develop more aggressive, more advanced-stage breast cancer that is diagnosed at a young age. American Indian women have the lowest risk of getting breast cancer.

Risk factors of breast cancer we can control

Smoking – Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins. These cigarette ingredients include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT. [7] Carcinogens affect the DNA of cells and cause mutations.

Weight - Overweight and obese women -- defined as having a BMI (body mass index) over 25 -- have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight also can increase the risk of the breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.

This higher risk is because fat cells make estrogen; extra fat cells mean more estrogen in the body, and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow.

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Exercise – There is growing evidence that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. One study from the Women's Health Initiative found 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman's risk by 18%. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more. [4]

Chemical exposure - A great deal of research has been reported and more is being done to understand possible environmental influences on breast cancer risk. Compounds in the environment that have estrogen-like properties are of special interest. For example, substances found in some plastics, certain cosmetics and personal care products, pesticides (such as DDE), and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) seem to have such properties. These could in theory affect breast cancer risk.

Endocrine disrupters or halogens such as fluoride, bromide, and chlorine are known to deplete iodine which has a protective effect on breast and other tissues. These chemicals are commonly found in our water, foods and even commonly prescribed and over the counter drugs.

Alcohol - Compared to women who don't drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.

Diet – Eating healthy foods and avoiding processed foods is an important factor in lowering risk of breast cancer. People should avoid polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) which are known a contributor to cancer, particularly breast cancer. [9] Studies show getting enough Vitamin D lowers risk as does adding certain foods to the diet such as more fruits and vegetables that protect against oxidative stress and cellular damage. Eating foods such as brown seaweed protects not only thyroid tissue but is known to lower risk of cancers, especially prostate and breast.

Why is brown seaweed an important addition to our diet?

Japanese women who eat on the average of 12mg of iodine from seaweed have a 50% lower risk of getting breast cancer.

Women in Japan commonly consume seaweed, which is one of the highest sources of iodine. Seaweed is reported to reduce the risk for breast cancer. [Japanese Journal Cancer Research 92: 483-87, 2001] In one study, thyroid disease incidence was higher in breast cancer patients than in healthy women (58% versus 18%). But other studies do not confirm that abnormal thyroid hormone levels are associated with breast cancer. [Nutrition Cancer 27: 48-52, 1997] It may be that an increased ratio of thyroid hormone over estrogen sets up a growth-promoting effect on breast tumors. [10]
Not only is seaweed nutrient dense with vitamins, minerals and enzymes which are necessary for our cells to function properly, it contains nutrients such as iodine and macronutrients such as fucoidan, a large polysaccharide that scientists have discovered have profound effects.

Why is iodine important? Iodine is stored in the thyroid, breasts, and the prostate and in every cell in the body and is critical to maintaining good health because our thyroid uses iodine to create the hormones which control metabolism, weight gain and all core body functions. Over the past 50 years our average daily iodine intake has decreased by over 50% while the incidence of disease such as hypothyroidism and cancer has increased. [10]

Both Iodine and fucoidan raises pH and reduces our risk of cancers by neutralizing acidic environment where cancers thrive. In a recent survey of 1478 cancer patients, 93% had a low saliva pH (acid).
The RDA in the US for iodine is 150 micrograms per day. In contrast, the average Japanese consumes 12 milligrams per day, an amount 83 times higher. Yet the incidence of breast cancer in Japan is half that of the U.S. while the general cancer rates were about one third that for Americans. Researchers have identified a direct link between iodine deficiency and increased incidence of disease. With adequate iodine you will boost your metabolism, increase your energy and stamina, and decrease body weight, another factor which affects your risk of breast cancer.

The combination of iodine and fucoidan has a double barrel shotgun effect when it comes to cancer, decreasing risk factors and improving outcomes and making them a potent weapon in the arsenal against cancer.

While they have somewhat different mechanisms the end results for both iodine and fucoidan are the same.

• Improved immune function – Iodine and fucoidan both have positive effects on the immune system. [12-14} Fucoidan is known to increase numbers of killer T-cells
• Apoptosis – Studies have shown that both nutrients induce apoptosis of breast cancer cells. In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, iodine was found to cause the destruction of breast tumors in rat, and has also been shown to have beneficial effects in fibrocystic human breast disease. [11] Moreover, multiple studies have shown the effect of fucoidan on cancer cells. A study in Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry showed both anti-proliferative and apoptosis in human breast cancer cells and human epithelioid cervical cells with fucoidan. [15] There are 178 studies on the anti-carcinogenic effect of fucoidan at The National Library of Medicine. [17]
• Anti-angiogenesis – Cancer cells must have a blood and nutrient supply to survive. Fucoidan cuts off blood flow to cancer cells in a process known as anti-angiogenesis. [16]
• Preventing metastasis – According to a recent study in Marine Drugs (April 2015) fucoidan prevents the migration and invasion of cancer cells to other areas of the body thereby prevent metastasis. [22]
• Increases killer T-cells – The effects of fucoidan on molecules of the immune system have been studied both in vitro and in vivo and effects on both cellular and humoral elements have been described. Fucoidan increases both activity and number of natural killer (NK) cells in vivo [18,19]. Increase in the number of cytotoxic T-cells has also been reported.
• Mobilization of stem cells – In recent years there has been a lot of new research on stem cells but this science is still in its infancy. What researchers do know is that fucoidan can increase the numbers of stem cells and mobilize then in order to repair the body. This may mean that given time they may find it repairs mutated genes just as it does tissues. Researchers in the US are studying applications in organ and limb regeneration but others are concentrating on cancer research. Stem Cell Universe narrated by Stephen Hawking discusses some of the current research with regard to stem cells.
• Fucoidan protect against the harmful effects of radiation – A Korean study showed that fucoidan has a radioprotective effect, improved blood cell counts after exposure and increased survival rates. [20,23]

Scientists around the world are racing to find an effective treatment in the battle against cancer as well as possible means of prevention. There is an ever increasing body of research that suggests that seaweed contains nutrients that are not only effective and beneficial but that do not have dangerous side effects.

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