October is breast cancer awareness month. In the 1950s, 1 in 40 women had a chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime. Now it's 1 in 8. Why have these numbers increased so significantly? One theory is our increased exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals (check out the paper: State of the Evidence - The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the Environment). Chemical exposure has significantly increased over the past several decades and are found in our plastic containers, the flame retardants coating our furniture, cleaning products, in your food, personal care products, etc. We now carry hundreds of synthetic chemicals in our bodies, many of which are endocrine disrupting chemicals, meaning they can change the chemical signaling in your body and cause problems. It is estimated that bout 2,000 new chemicals are introduced into the environment every year. These chemicals persist for hours to years, depending on the substance. You may be surprised to learn that more than 80,000 chemicals have been introduced in America, although some are no longer in use, they persist in the environment. About 34,000 are registered for current use in the US today and many don't have safety studies. Think about your cumulative exposure to these chemicals overtime and your actual body burden of these contaminants. The biggest culprits are: pesticides, parabens, phthalates, triclosan and more. These chemicals act as estrogen mimickers and can increase your risk of hormone positive breast cancer. These not only impact your own health, but the health of your children, with an average of 200 chemical contaminants found in cord blood at birth. I encourage you to use the EWG.org's guides to look into your cosmetics, personal care products and cleaning products to reduce your exposure.
What else can you do?
1. Maintain a healthy diet. Aim for lean protein, healthy fats, fiber rich fruits/vegetables, avoid processed foods and excess sugar. Carotenoid rich foods, as well as high fiber food choices will especially help reduce your risk. 2. Watch your alcohol intake: 2-3 drinks per day will increase your risk of breast cancer at least 20% 3. Don't smoke cigarettes. This is one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer, especially in younger women (that have not gone through menopause). Smoking alone will raise your chance of developing breast cancer by 35%. 4. Exercise! This can help you reduce your risk of breast and other cancers. 5. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity increases your risk of breast cancer. Excess fat promotes inflammation and other physiological changes in your system that can promote disease. 6. Optimize your vitamin D: suboptimal levels of this vitamin increase your risk of breast and other cancers. 7. Get enough sleep! Insufficient sleep and abnormal shift work increases your risk of breast and other cancers. Check out my posts on circadian rhythm for more information on this.