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The Connection Between Breast Cancer and The Environment

Breast Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in women.

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There is a continually expanding and compelling volume of data linking breast cancer to exposure to environmental toxins, radiation and endocrine disrupters lead to increased incidence of breast cancers.

When taking a thorough history of our patients we must include a review of their “Exposome”

Genetic and Genomic factors, Reproductive history, lifestyle factors such as weight, alcohol consumption, smoking and lack of physical exercise all contribute to increased risk profiles. Socioeconomic status as well as psychological health and resilience, all influence outcomes. Racial and ethnic minorities are often exposed to a disproportionately higher level of environmental toxins in the US. Immigrants may have lived in areas where there are no environmental regulations or controls.

Exposures to common chemicals found in products used every day contribute to a lifetime burden of toxic chemicals. The greatest rise in the incidence of breast cancers occurred in the decades after World War II when there were exponential increases in the use of herbicides, pesticides, plastics, cosmetics and body care products.

Cancer is often a perfect storm of genetics and environment. While studies are done on single agents, the reality is that we are living in a toxic chemical soup in modern life exposing us to a myriad of chemicals from multiple sources on a daily basis.

A common chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) is an endocrine disruptor. Exposure to BPA early in life contributes to breast displasias later in life due to its impact on mammary gland gene expression. BPA is found in plastics, linings of canned food containers and credit card receipts.

Limit exposure to plastics, polycarbonate food and water containers and canned foods to reduce BPA exposures. Breastfeeding women should be cautious as BPA is found in human breast milk.

Parabens, p-hydroxybenzoic acid esters, are widely used preservatives in personal care products and cosmetics. Parabens are endocrine disruptors. Parabens enable the Hallmarks of Cancer, characteristics of tumor cell survival and proliferation through multiple pathways. Parabens are also found in human breast milk. Parabens bind to estrogen receptors, inhibit apoptosis, promote proliferation, angiogenesis and metastasis. A lifelong commitment to avoiding all products that contain parabens will dramatically reduce exposures. Many European countries have banned the use of parabens. European made products are often paraben free as well as select brands made in the US.

Visit the Environmental Working Group Cosmetics Data base https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ for a list of safe and not so safe products.

Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in P450 enzymes, particularly CYP1BI metabolism. Mulitple methylation pathways also influence detoxificaton pathways and estrogen metabolism.

A healthy microbiome, particularly rich in Bifidobacteria and butyrate support normal estrogen conjugation and excretion. MANY breast cancer treatments contribute to dysbiosis, increased inflammation and alterations in estrogen metabolism and mood.

Pelvic and Abdominal radiotherapy, surgeries, chemotherapy agents, steroids, antibiotics administered to cancer patients and compromise gut health, immunity and inflammation control. Increasing butryate in the intestines improves the health of the microbiome.

Butyrate and the health of intestinal microbiome can be easily increased by ingesting 6-8 grams of soluble fibers daily. The Onion-Garlic family and the Brassica-Cabblage family vegetables are high in soluble fibers.

The use of oral contraceptives, fertility drugs and hormone replacement therapy all alter breast tissue. Thus, medical care itself leads to nosocomial trends in breast cancer. Patients BEWARE!!!

Many pesticides and herbicides cause endocrine disruption. Commercial production of many animal food sources including the additional of estrogens and growth hormones to feed.

Patients should be well versed and take a tour of their home room by room to identify toxic, endocrine disrupting chemical exposures.

Patients can be overwhelmed when we give them a long list of products and foods to avoid.

In our clinic we employ nutritional health coaches to assist patients in successfully implementing a lifestyle and diet that reduces exposures to estrogenic environmental chemicals.

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