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June 2010 - December 2013
I - Breast cancer risk factors
14. Factors promoting breast cancer, non-hormonal
Once a breast cancer cell starts multiplying, most of the breast cancer predisposing risk factors turn into breast cancer promoting factors. The mechanism through which they act may and may not change - the circumstances certainly do.
If we recall that most of breast cancer predisposing factors relate to the diet, toxic exposure, immune system efficiency and lifestyle - all of which in the end boils down to lifestyle and inheritance - it is not too hard to understand why is that so. But while a cancer-free person may allow herself the luxury of tolerating some poor choices, it is a whole different ball game in the presence of cancer. Every little thing matters, because the cumulative effect of a number of little things may become big, deciding between winning and losing.
For instance, healthy intestinal tract is where it all begins and, often times, ends. You may be - in fact, everyone is - exposed to chemical carcinogens, which with healthy intestines and limited exposure have good chance to be detoxified by the liver-produced glucuronic acid attaching to it and excreted in the bile. But if your intestines are - due to poor dietary choices and/or frequent use of antibiotics - overpopulated with toxic bacteria, this crucial part of detoxification process (conjugation, detox phase II) can be seriously inhibited by their enzyme (beta glucuronidase) which brakes glucuronic acid bond,
freeing the toxin/carcinogen to do its damage.
That is just one of the ways how unhealthy intestines predispose for (breast) cancer. More so if part of infestation is - as it's often the case - fungal overgrowth, with the fungi producing toxins - including mutagenic acetaldehyde - of their own. And it is only made worse by nutritional deficiencies and imbalances - rather common in these circumstances - compromising detoxifying ability of the body.
Now, once cancer sets in, this obstruction to detoxifying carcinogens, made worse by their internal production and inefficient detox, is not the only - and not the primary - concern. Primary concern becomes the
action of toxins compromising cancer-defense
from intercellular signaling and detecting alienated cells, to the action of the immune system, overburdened and exhausted by fighting intestinal dysbiosis and by damage to its cell by uncontrollable toxins.
That same immune system that is your only hope of destroying cancer when all other lines of defense fail. That is your only hope of preventing active viral infection which have the ability to predispose for, induce and promote malignant transformation.
By the way, glucuronic acid bond is also
how estrogen is kept in balance,
i.e. removed from the bloodstream once its specific purpose (e.g. its role in the menstrual cycle) is over. Hence, compromised gut can also contribute to elevated estrogen level - and it does not take much of extra estrogen to have significant effect. More so if your liver is sluggish due to deficiency of vitamin B6, which is also necessary to detoxify (remove) estrogen. And that can happen even if your nominal B6 intake is satisfactory, if your are deficient in nutrients needed to convert B6 into its active form (pyridoxal-5-phosphate), like vitamin B2 and magnesium.
In other words, that same unhealthy gut and sluggish detox are still predisposing factors for another cancer, but now they are also promoting factors for the existing one.
See, how it all counts, how so many things are interconnected and centered around nutrients?
Elevated estrogen itself is not just a potential breast cancer promoting threat. It is probably the major factor in fibrocystic breast disease, benign condition but a moderate breast cancer risk factor. Estrogen dominance over progesterone is the most common main cause of the premenstrual syndrome. It also inhibits activity of endorphins, happy hormones you need to feel good and for pain relief. And so on.
And this little thread started by mentioning that unhealthy intestinal tract can be promoting breast cancer is only
drop in the ocean from the microcosm of body processes
at the cellular, molecular and sub-molecular level. But it should illustrate well how other poor lifestyle choices - unhealthy diet, smoking, regular alcohol consumption, obesity, sedentary life, chronic stress, dependence on medications, and others - put the body in harms way and, at the same time, take away from its ability to function, including the ability to fight off cancer.
The majority of breast cancer predisposing/promoting factors result from poor lifestyle choices, and for most of them we know we shouldn't be doing. Some are not so obvious. One of them is the effect of prolonged breast compression by habitually wearing bra. Another - surprise, surprise - is screening mammography.
If you've read Dressed to Kill (Singer and Grismaijer, 1995), you know that wearing bra for many hours every day is like inviting breast cancer. The 3-year study with 4,700 women participants found that those wearing bra more than 12 hours a day, but not to bed, had 21 times higher breast cancer incidence than women wearing them less than 12 hours. Women who wore bra to bad had
125 times higher
incidence from women
The exact mechanism with which wearing bra promotes breast cancer is not determined, but it is probably related to the congested breast lymph vessels and nodes (made worse by the lack of exercise), preventing efficient detoxification of the breast tissue. Elevated tissue temperature may be a factor as well.
It is possible that longer-term excessive bra wearing may even initiate breast cancer but, again, it is only a speculation at this point.
Screening - mammography
Everyone knows that ignoring or neglecting screening for breast cancer increases the chance of developing its advanced forms. Hence, in effect, it promotes cancerous growth. But can screening itself be a risk factor?
The answer is: "Yes". And in more than one way. But only due to inherent faults of the screening technique.
The principal officially recommended screening method for breast cancer is X-ray mammography. What possible risks it could pose? Here they are:
▶ false negatives: estimates vary, but at least a third of all breast cancers are diagnosed between scheduled annual mammograms - and it is much more likely in high-risk women, as well as premenopausal women and those on HRT, whose breast tissue develops dense structures making them difficult to read; also, 10-15% of early breast cancers are missed by mammography; needless to say, it makes annual mammography screening unreliable
▶ false positives: similarly, nearly 90% of all positive mammograms are false positives (for the reason mentioned, false positives are also higher with premenopausal and women on HRT); it causes distress, and leads to unnecessary additional screenings and procedures (e.g. biopsy) that may increase breast cancer risk, or result in unnecessary disfigurement
▶ radiation: mammography uses X-ray imaging, and the level of radiation exposure may be a serious concern for radiation-sensitive individuals, particularly considering cumulative dose during extended period of time; separate concern is the much more significant radiation exposure as a part of overtreatment
▶ breast compression: breast cancer risk associated with wearing bra is indicative of the vulnerability of the breast tissue to even modest physical pressure or constraint; breast compression during mammography is very intense, and the prevailing educated opinion is that in some cases it can initiate or significantly accelerate spread of cancer through the breast tissue
The above does not exactly fit into the decades long stereotype of mammography as a harmless life-saver. Is there more to it? Let's take a journey. For decades, mammography X-ray screening was promoted as key element in minimizing breast cancer risk. Does it deserve it such reputation? Let's see.