October is breast cancer prevention month and with 12.5% of women getting breast cancer at some time in their lives, it is bound to affect any one of us. Have you or your loved one gotten checked? As the most common cancer in the U.S, overall breast cancer rates have been steady for the last 20 years. Notably, the rate for younger women under 40 getting cancer doubled since 1976 to 2.9 per 100,000 women and 11% of breast cancers are in women under 45. Moreover, black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, with black women getting get diagnosed later. Worse yet, black women are more likely to get a triple-negative breast cancer that is more aggressive and difficult to treat. The reluctance of women to get screening during the COVID pandemic has resulted in a 52% drop in breast cancer detection rates according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Let’s change that!
Risk factors for breast cancer include never having a child, having a child after 30, never breastfeeding, age, radiation history, obesity, alcohol use, and low activity or exercise. Genetics also plays a part, with genes such as BRCA1/BRCA2, and other SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) like COMT, MTHFR, CYP2D6, CYP1B1, CYP19A1 that can give information on risks and hormone metabolism. These can be tested through companies that offer gene testing.
Those with a history of synthetic hormone use such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy also are at increased risk due to elevated estrogen levels. Newer bioidentical hormones maybe safer than synthetic estrogens, but risks need to be evaluated on an individual basis. Xenoestrogens are a type of hormone that imitates estrogen and can be synthetic or natural chemical compounds. Xenoestrogens can be found in plastics, preservatives, additives, personal products, home products, receipts, and even tap water and can have adverse effects and increase risk for breast cancer.
What are some things women can do to prevent breast cancer?
· Get to know your body! Do self-breast exams (SBE). Though research shows SBE is not very effective in detecting cancer, many clients report finding abnormalities and going in for screening only to find out they had cancer!
· Get yearly clinical breast exams (CBE). CBE also doesn’t have much efficacy according to research, but getting exams and talking to your provider can only help not harm.
· Get a mammogram. Mammograms are x-ray pictures of the breasts. Different societies have different recommendations. The American Cancer Society (ACS) state women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms. Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening till age 75. Others recommend breast cancer screening every 2 years starting at age 50. Women should make a decision based on a discussion with their health provider. Mammograms are good at finding breast cancer. They are 87% sensitive, meaning they only miss 13% of breast cancers.
· Consider DUTCH testing (dutchtest.com) and other toxin and oxidative stress lab testing with a functional medicine provider. These tests can help you understand how you are metabolizing estrogen and what your exposures and risks are for damage to DNA.
With COVID at hand, women are underutilizing services which can lead to late detection of breast cancer. It is more important than ever to take care of ourselves and the women in our lives.
The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please see your health provider for medical care.