In 1992, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation designated October to be the official month for breast cancer awareness and branded the event with its own color—a pink ribbon.
The color pink was selected to remind women that in as much as we are like the summer season—beautiful, feminine, nurturing life givers—some of us would also transition into a season of sobering coolness in our health as we face the staggering statistics that 1 in 8 of us will develop breast cancer. But more important than that, the color pink is also the symbol of hope that we promote as we rally together in sisterhood to bring awareness about breast cancer facts and possible ways that we can naturally prevent ever getting it.
Know the Quick Facts:
What is Breast Cancer?
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO),Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women worldwide. Every year 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 of those diagnosed will actually die.
- Black women are more likely to die than any other ethnic group that’s been diagnosed with breast cancer, which is concluded in the research that shows their death rate at 40%.
- Even though younger women make up about 11% of newly diagnosed breast cancer cases, women 50 and older are affected the most.
- Research has shown that smoking puts you at risk for developing breast cancer.
- Having one alcoholic drink per day slightly increases your risk for developing breast cancer, while having more than one per day will greatly increase your risk. Note: Alcohol increases estrogen levels in your blood stream and high levels of estrogen has been linked to breast cancer.
- Using contraceptives for five consecutive years can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, and
- Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
The Symptoms of Breast Cancer
- A discharge from the nipple that’s not milk
- Unexplained shrinkage or swelling in the breast
- A lump in the breast or in your underarm pit
- Pulling in the nipple or pain in the nipple or breast area
- Change in the shape or size of the breast, and
- Unexplained shrinkage of the breast
Screening for Breast Cancer
- Getting screened through mammograms or self-breast exams can aid in detecting breast cancer early enough before it spreads.
- Mammography in women 40 to 49 has been shown to save lives by only 15%; therefore, researchers have opposing views as to the benefits of a regular mammogram for this age group.
- Thee evidence for women in the age group of 50 to 69 shows a 10 to 23 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer so it recommended that these women should get an annual mammogram.
- Women in their 20s and 30s should have a Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)done by their health care provider during a period of every 3 years.
- After 40, it’s recommended that women receive a CBE every year.
Breast Cancer Prevention—Three Key Changes That Might Save your Life: Vitamin D3, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and Exercise
Eating a more plant based diet is a “no brainer” when it comes to sustaining our lives, but did you know that there are essential nutrients like Vitamin D3 (darker skinned women do not get enough sunshine to naturally get Vitamin D3 from the sun) and omega 3 fatty acids that are also critical to your overall health? And moreover, did you also know that exercise—Yes, even walking—just might save your life and prevent you from developing breast cancer?
Vitamin D3 Deficiency and its Link to Breast Cancer
Vitamin D3 Deficiency
Vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to many health issues ranging from mere bone fractures to heart attacks, so it’s not surprising that cancer— including breast cancer—would also be among the list.
Vitamin D3 Research
Research at UC San Diego has shown that patients with higher levels of Vitamin D in their blood had a higher survival rate when diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr. Cedric Garland, a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine decided to perform the study on the correlations between breast cancer and Vitamin D3 survival rates after he discovered that women with low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had a much greater risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer. The study concluded that women with lower levels of Vitamin D3 in their blood stream were more likely to develop breast cancer.
How to get more Vitamin D3: You should see your physician as soon as possible and ask to have a 25(OH) D blood test done to determine your blood level. Ideally, if you are cancer free, you should aim to have about 50ml of Vitamin D3 in your blood as stated in the chart below.
However, if you are below 50 ng/ml, then you will need to take a good, quality Vitamin D3 supplement to increase your vitamin D levels. Fortunately, Vitamin D3 comes in a variety of forms, i.e. there are gel caps, sprays, and drops so pick the form that’s easiest for you to consistently take. I highly recommend the sprayable form because it’s quick and easy to administer. Below are three charts (based on a 150 lb weight), courtesy of the Vitamin D Council, to guide you on the amount of supplementation you’ll need depending on your lab results.
If your levels are 10 ng/ml and below, you’ll need to do the following:
|To achieve this level…||Take this much supplement per day…|
|20 ng/ml||1000 IU|
|30 ng/ml||2200 IU|
|40 ng/ml||3600 IU|
|50 ng/ml||5300 IU|
|60 ng/ml||7400 IU|
|70 ng/ml||10100 IU|
If your levels are between 20 ng/ml and 30 ng/ml, you’ll need to do the following action:
|To achieve this level…||Take this much supplement per day…|
|30 ng/ml||600 IU|
|40 ng/ml||2000 IU|
|50 ng/ml||3700 IU|
|60 ng/ml||5800 IU|
|70 ng/ml||8600 IU|
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Deficiency and Their Link to Breast Cancer
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Researchers at the Research Institute, National Cancer Center, Gyeonggi, South Korea, examined the dietary consumption of omega 3 fatty acid rich fish of 358 Korean women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and a control group of 360 Korean women with no known history of breast cancer, and what they found was extremely promising. Women who had higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids in their diet were less likely to develop breast cancer. Therefore, increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids will possibly lower your risks of developing breast cancer.
Getting More Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Your Diet:
You can eat more wild Alaskan salmon to increase your daily consumption of omega 3 fatty acids. Wild Alaskan salmon has very low mercury levels and is therefore, safer to consume. Or, you could also supplement with a high quality fish oil or cod liver oil. But if you supplement with cod liver oil, just be mindful that it contains vitamin D3 so you will have to adjust your vitamin D3 supplemental intake to ensure that you are not getting too much.
Exercise and its Link to Breast Cancer
The beauty of exercise is that it doesn’t have to cost anything—it’s free. And according to the National Cancer Institute, women who exercise four or more hours a week, are less likely to develop breast cancer, which is a very simple strategy to incorporate into your daily lives. Walking 30 minutes a day—six days a week can save your life.
These are three small, simple strategies that might prove to have a profound impact on the longevity of women. So this October, I urge every woman to not only adorn yourselves in the color pink, to not only become more mindful of the statistic that 1 in 8 of us will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but to also remember to stand proudly because the color pink is also symbolic of our beauty, femininity, nurturing spirit, and most important of all —our hope that awareness can bring about early detection and prevention. To date, breast cancer is still not 100% curable.