What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer : How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life
By John R. Lee, M.D., Virginia Hopkins, David Zava, Ph.D.
As you learned in the last chapter, conventional medicine doesn't like to talk about prevention when it comes to breast cancer, but it's more than willing to talk about risk factors. It's important for you to know what your risk factors are and how to put them into context for yourself, both if you're concerned about preventing breast cancer and if you have it. For example, if your doctor insists that you take the drug tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer because your risk factors are high, you should know what this means.
A risk factor is something that statistically correlates with the incidence of a disease, but is not necessarily a true or direct cause of the disease. Known risk factors for the disease are fairly well laid out by researchers at this point, but within the narrow boundaries of what conventional medicine considers a risk factor, only 25 to 30 percent of the women who get the disease have acknowledged risk factors. This number has likely increased significantly in the past year or so, as more studies have proven that HRT and use of oral contraceptives at a young age increase breast cancer risk. If exposure to xenohormones and toxic chemicals was included as an official risk factor, the number would rise even higher.
As you'll soon understand, almost all risk factors associated with breast cancer are directly or indirectly related to excess estrogen or estrogen that isn't balanced with progesterone. We believe that correcting this imbalance, which Dr. Lee has termed estrogen dominance, is the essence of preventing and treating breast cancer.
Risk factors are calculated by epidemiologists, or scientists who study health trends in large groups. This type of statistical information is not infallible, but when more than one study shows the same trend, it's an indication that the information is pretty good. One way to help prevent breast cancer, and to help prevent a recurrence, is to reduce your risk factors.
There are many myths, as we like to call them, about risk factors for breast cancer, and new ones seem to come out every month. Many of these myths are created with data that has been tweaked by companies that stand to profit from the information. For example, Japanese women have less breast cancer than U.S. women, and the soy industry uses this statistic to claim that the reason is because the Japanese eat a lot of soy. However, there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim-it is an epidemiological guess. There is evidence that Japanese women have a genetic predisposition to process hormones differently than Caucasian women, and this may account for the difference in the rate of breast cancer. It's also true that when Japanese women move to the United States, their granddaughters' rate of breast cancer matches that of U.S. women. Does this prove a dietary connection? Probably, but not necessarily. If it is a dietary connection, it could have more to do with eating more hormone- contaminated meat than with eating less soy. If it's not a dietary connection, it could be that pollution of our environment with xenohormones is much higher than that in Japan, or that when Japanese women come to the United States they use oral contraceptives and ITRT more than they do in Japan, or that their stress levels are increased here. In other words, there are many factors that can increase or decrease the risk of breast cancer.
Current thinking is that the increase in breast cancer and the chronic diseases so common in the United States among Japanese immigrants is created because they consume more calories, and more of the wrong kind of calories from highly processed foods laden with fake fats (trans-fatty acids such as partially hydrogenated oils), refined carbohydrates, and sugar.
For a while it was reported that higher fat intake correlated with higher breast cancer risk, but bigger, better, and more objective studies have shown this correlation to be inaccurate. Since it's been nutritionally politically correct to make fat the bad guy since the 1970s, this quickly became a popular risk factor, even though evidence for it was scant. It's likely that again, the correlations that were found were due to eating more calories. The point is that we need to be very careful about believing generalizations made about risk factors.
Much of the information about risk factors for breast cancer comes from data collected from women who have breast cancer. This is called retrospective data, or data that looks back at a woman's life history. This type of data has yielded valuable information about what protects women from breast cancer, such as early pregnancy and late onset of menstruation, and what increases the risk of breast cancer, such as early onset of menstruation and not having children. We'll delve into these in more detail later in this chapter.