“Breast Cancer Awareness Month” recently ended, but that doesn’t mean the issue of breast cancer suddenly goes away − even if the pink ribbons and appeals for money from groups such as Susan G. Komen diminish somewhat in November. According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer currently affects one in eight women in the United States.
There are important ways you can raise your own breast cancer awareness. It is by being smart throughout the year and learning what you can do to prevent cancer of any kind from ever happening to you. One easy way to do this is to make sure you don’t have a nutrient deficiency and are getting enough essential vitamins and minerals every day.
Preventing Nutrient Deficiency: 8 Top Nutrients for Cancer Prevention
Keeping reproductive system cancers, including uterine, cervical, ovarian, prostate (in men), and breast cancer at bay means being proactive on many different fronts. Avoiding “xenoestrogens” (chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body) and making lifestyle changes to manage stress are two big ones. Another vital component, however, is to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to help your immune system and your endocrine system be as healthy as it can possibly be.
The following is a list of the top vitamin and minerals you need to pay attention to for breast cancer prevention. Unfortunately, many of these nutrients are the same ones that people are often deficient in both in the U.S. and around the world.
#1. Vitamin D3
You simply cannot talk about breast cancer prevention without talking about vitamin D. Suffice it to say that getting adequate amounts of vitamin D (in conjunction with vitamin K, discussed below) is absolutely essential for preventing breast cancer. To put the importance of vitamin D (which is really a steroid hormone) into perspective, consider that vitamin D affects over 100 genes in the body. Most individuals are deficient in vitamin D so be sure to get a simple blood test that can determine your levels. Then get the advice of an integrative doctor (or at least a forward-thinking one). Many doctors still consider levels of 20 ng/ml as normal, although this is quickly changing. Organizations such as the Vitamin D Council say that levels of 40 to 80 ng/ml are adequate for good health and breast cancer prevention in most people. And according to the American Association for Cancer Research, when Vitamin D levels double to 50 ng/ml, there is an over 80% reduction in breast cancer!
#2. Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is not as well-known as other nutrients, but it is just as important for both D3 and calcium absorption. When you increase vitamin D3 through supplementation and by getting more sun, your body will naturally produce more K2-dependent proteins. These proteins are also needed to distribute calcium in your body. D3 and K2 fit together like two pieces of a biochemical puzzle that help improve your heart, boost the immune system, strengthen bones, and balance hormones.
You may have heard about iodine’s importance for preventing conditions like hypothyroidism. Iodine is actually important for every cell in your body. Besides the thyroid, glands in the ovaries, prostate, and colon rely on it. Many people are deficient in iodine not only because they are not getting enough of the mineral but also because they may have an overabundance of toxins, such as bromide, in their system that can block absorption. Simply put, you must get rid of the “bad stuff” (i.e. toxins) in order to bring in the good stuff! Make sure you check T3, T4 as well as TSH and free T3 before you supplement
Holistic health pioneer Dr. Norman Shealy said that “a magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.” That is a powerful statement, and a powerful testimony to how important magnesium is for overall health.
Magnesium helps to:
- facilitate nerve and muscle function
- regulate pain responses
- create DNA and RNA synthesis
- balance hormones and sleep cycles
- synthesize vitamins C, vitamin E, and the mineral iodine
- help regulation inflammation
- assist in glutathione production
Studies have shown a direct link between magnesium deficiency and cancer as well as increasing magnesium through “magnesium therapy” and reduced tumor growth. Many health providers are able to administer a combination calcium/magnesium/potassium test.
Little was known about selenium’s link to cancer fighting until studies began to discover how this trace mineral affects the mechanisms through which tumors grow. A landmark investigation conducted by the University of Copenhagen found that selenium affects the NGK2D ligand, which cancer cells use to “disarm” immune cells. Remarkably, selenium has the ability to neutralize this ligand.
#6. B Vitamins
In total, there are 8 B vitamins that affect the body and pretty well all of them are necessary for cancer prevention. B1 helps with energy conversion. B2 is a powerful antioxidant while B3 and B5 helps reproductive system hormones stay healthy. Research has linked vitamin B6 deficiency in particular to higher risk for cancer. B9 (folic acid or folate), on the other hand, helps in the creation of genetic materials. B9 has been shown to protect against breast cancer in multiple studies, including a joint French-Mexican study which found that “adequate folate intake may be important for breast cancer prevention.” Finally, B12 helps the nervous system stay in balance, keeping overactive stress responses at bay and aiding in iron absorption.
#7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is essential for immune system and cardiovascular health. It can trigger cancer cell death through oxidation. In addition, new research has connected Vitamin C to cancer protection in another way. Ascorbic acid can convert into a substance called DHA or “dehydroascorbic acid” when it encounters a cancer cell. The cancer cell recognizes DHA as something that it can consume and brings it into its metabolic system. Once inside the cancer cell, vitamin C turns back into “itself” (ascorbic acid) where it causes rapid cell death. Vitamin C is not processed in the body. It can only be obtained from the foods we eat or in supplement form. Some experts say that humans are capable of ingesting up to 10,000 ml/day for health maintenance and up to 100,000 mg/day if undergoing “Vitamin C IV” protocols.
Iron’s relationship to cancer is complex. According to the World Health Organization, it is the number one mineral when it comes to worldwide deficiency. Indeed, iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, the substance in the blood that is responsibility for transporting oxygen from the lungs, and low iron levels can result in anemia. Anemia is common in menstruating women and many studies postulate that this may be why the fatality rate amongst young women with breast cancer is so high. On the other hand, very recent research is now connecting high iron levels with an increase in breast cancer amongst post-menopausal women because excess can raise the rate of free radicals in the body. It is safe to say that both iron levels that are too high and too low can put you at risk for breast cancer. Be sure to get a test that checks ferritin, which is the protein that transports iron in the blood. Expert advice as to safe iron levels can vary, but in general, should be between 40 and 80.
Remember that knowledge is power when it comes to your health. Work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider to discover which nutrient deficiency (or deficiencies) you are at risk for. Then take steps to fill in the gaps in your nutritional intake and celebrate “Breast Health Awareness Month” (what I call BHAM!) each and every day of the year!
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