16 Steps to a Healthier Life for You and Your Family

by Breast Cancer Options
 
There is a growing body of evidence showing that healthy lifestyle factors such as eating well and exercising regularly provide significant health benefits, possibly even offering protection against cancer recurrences about on par with chemotherapy and even the newer hormonal and drug treatments. If you combine these risk-reducing habits with limiting your exposure to substances that promote the disease, you'll benefit even more. (Nurses' Health Study)

 1.    Exercise on a regular basis. Being physically active boosts the odds that breast cancer patients will be 50 percent less likely to die from the disease than sedentary women. Exercise can affect the amount of estrogen in your body and it makes sense that less estrogen might mean a lower breast cancer risk. Women undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer benefit from moderate intensity, regular aerobic activity, according to new studies.

 2.   Control your weight.  Weight is a bit confusing.  If you are overweight before you go through menopause, your risk of breast cancer is lower than average.  But if you are overweight after menopause, your risk of breast cancer is higher than average. This is because women who are overweight ovulate less than average and their breast cells may be exposed to lower levels of estrogen.  Once you are post menopausal, your estrogen levels are linked to the amount of body fat you have.  The more fat, the higher your estrogen levels are likely to be.

3. Sleep eight hours a night in total darkness to encourage normal melatonin levels. A good night's sleep may be one weapon in the fight against cancer because Melatonin has cancer-fighting properties. The hormone seeps from a pea-sized gland in the brain when the lights go out at night. It's the reason you get sleepy when it's dark and current research indicates that melatonin also puts cancer cells to sleep.
 
4. Eat an organically grown diet whenever possible. Your diet should contain fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, organic protein and healthy-fats. Some pesticides used on non-organic fruits and vegetables have been linked to breast cancer and estrogen-like hormones used in raising livestock expose us to hormones that increase our risk for the disease.
 
5.   Avoid fried, char-broiled, or barbecued as forms of cooking.  The 'Char' contains PAHs - polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that cause mammary tumors in animals. Can't give it up? Take an aspirin with your char-broiled meal, as the findings suggest that aspirin may negate the potentially harmful effects of flame-broiled foods.
 
6.   Avoid bleached products, ie.coffee filters, paper, napkins, toilet tissue, tampons and sanitary napkins. The EPA has determined that using bleached coffee filters alone can result in a lifetime exposure to dioxin that exceeds acceptable risks.  The FDA detected dioxins and dozens of other substances in conventional tampons.
 
7.   Avoid using chlorine bleach for household cleaning or laundry. The chlorine in your automatic dishwashing detergent mixes with the food and steam to create a gas. When the dishwasher is opened and this gas comes out, it's highly toxic. The same is true even in laundry machines but at a lower level.  Hydrogen peroxide bleaches are a safe alternative; they break down into water and oxygen.
 
8.  Drink filtered or bottled water, not 'city water' that contains chlorine and fluoride. Whether we like it or not, the water that emerges from our taps, however pristine it may appear, is filled with carcinogenic compounds. A simple water filter can now serve as a valuable safeguard against cancer.
 
9.  Do not use pesticides or herbicides on your lawn or garden. They are endocrine disrupters and many pesticides and herbicides mimic estrogen, a known breast cancer risk factor. A cup of salt in a gallon of vinegar will kill weeds.
 
10. Reduce or eliminate purchase of plastic products (their production releases chlorinated toxins into the environment). Some plastics leach hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates into the substances they come in contact with and release carcinogens into our air and water during the manufacturing process. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics are especially dangerous and used in toys that children put in their mouths, so keep an eye out for nontoxic toys. Bisphenol A is an artificial estrogen used to create the plastic called polycarbonate as well as resins used to line cans, drinking water bottles and plastics used in baby bottles.
 
11. Use personal care products without harmful chemicals that may alter hormones like parabens or phthalates (dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). Phthalates are hormone mimicking chemicals used in common household products and used to make plastics soft and flexible. They are found in hair spray, deodorant, nail polish, hair gel, mousse, lotions, perfumes, fragrances and many cosmetics.

 12. Avoid alcohol. Studies have found that regular, moderate use of alcohol affects the levels of important female hormones, especially for postmenopausal women whose bodies make much less estrogen and progesterone than before they entered menopause. Studies show a weak association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer in women who drink one alcoholic beverage a day. However, about 2 to 5 drinks per day, may be associated with a rate of breast cancer that is about 40% higher than the rate for non-drinkers. Women who choose to drink can lower their risk of developing breast cancer if they take the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 400 micrograms of folic acid or eat a folate-rich diet include vegetables including spinach, asparagus, vegetarian baked beans, green peas, broccoli, avocado, peanuts, wheat germ, tomato juice, turnip greens, orange, cantaloupe, papaya and banana.

13. Use 'wet cleaning' rather than dry cleaning which contains 'PERC' (perchloroethylene). If you must use traditional dry cleaning with PERC, open the plastic bags on your clothing in an open space and air them out before putting them in a closet or on your body. Solvents, such as PERC are under study for breast cancer and are associated with other cancers. 

 14. Avoid PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) found in electronic equipment and furniture. They are endocrine disruptors, are linked to reproductive damage and neurological impairments, affect thyroid hormones and may cause cancer. They are commercially produced flame retardants often added to polyurethane foam, various plastics, and electronics equipment. Choose carpet pads, bedding, cushions, and upholstered furniture made from natural fibers including wool, cotton, and hemp. 
 
15. Learn better ways of handling stress.Although more research needs to be done, levels of the stress hormone cortisol,  rise with increased stress. High levels of cortisol suppress immune response by reducing natural killer cell activity. Natural killer (NK) cells are important in surveillance against malignant cells and responsible for destroying viruses and tumor cells. Studies suggest that imbalances in cortisol levels can cause tumors to grow faster.
 
16. Learn to read labels and become an informed consumer. By law all skin care products must be labeled with the ingredients in descending order of their quantity in the product. A good rule of thumb is to divide the ingredient list into thirds: the top third usually contains 90-95% of the product; the middle third usually contains 5-8% & the bottom third, 1-3%.