THE BLOG
06/13/2013 11:50 am ET | Updated Aug 13, 2013

Breast Cancer and Prevention: Part 2

Well, in last week's blog I boggled your brain with the biochemistry of how women get an increased risk of breast cancer.

This week we're going to talk about how to alter your risk.

A few caveats: I'm not going to be terribly specific, it's missing information, and the reason for this is that I want you to find a functional medicine provider near you with whom you can get into a partnership for prevention! Only one size fits you, and it may not fit your neighbor, or the other women reading this.

There are a number of goals in this process. The first is to ensure that you have healthy estrogen ratios. The second is that you give your body the tools it needs to process all your toxins appropriately and allow the two phases of your liver to do their best work keeping you healthy. The last goal is to make you aware that your estrogen ratios and levels are, to some extent, changeable. This means that you may be able to alter your future with interventions now.

So let's get started!

Achieving healthy hormone levels can be accomplished by impacting a number of different pathways. Let's start with one of the more subtle but highly effective solutions. It is the avoidance of carcinogens. The CDC has a long list of carcinogens, most of which I've never heard of. However, a few stand out. Formaldehyde and toluene (found in many nail polishes), tobacco smoke and radon (found in many basements) are four that jumped out at me. Often, women don't know they have impaired removal of toxins through liver Phases I and II until they develop a problem. So, unless you have access to a functional medicine practitioner who can evaluate your 2:16 hydroxyestrone levels, it's safer to assume you have difficulty processing (and avoid the carcinogens!) than to assume your liver is amazing at removing toxins.

Next, let's talk about something that's more pervasive, and a little harder to work on, but equally, if not even more, important. It's the effect of carrying extra weight. Obesity is on the rise, and with it estrogen imbalances. The reason for this is that your fat cells produce an enzyme called "aromatase" that works to convert androgens to estrone. Although estrone is a weaker form of estrogen, it can still work on the breast and uterine tissue to make the cells grow. The more fat cells that women (or men) have, the more conversion to estrone, and the higher the risk of developing cancer. So, the goal is to be at a healthy weight, not only for the decreased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes but also to decrease the risk of cancer.

At the risk of depressing you, there's more. (But, don't forget, IT'S MODIFIABLE!) There are a number of genetic mutations that seem to be quite common (think: up to 30 percent of the population has them), and can raise your risk for cancer, heart disease, depression, and other diseases, due to what I'll call a "methylation" defect. The defect lies in the difficulty converting folate and B12 into their active forms, which are methyl-tetra-hydro-folate and methylcobolamin, respectively.

If you cannot make B12 and folate into their active forms (i.e., you carry one of these genetic mutations), then you are more likely to have your estrogen processing go down a pathway that involves quinones, free radicals, and cancer promoting forms of estrogen. There are a number of labs that run these genetic tests; some are covered by insurance, and some are not. A functional medicine provider who is in your area can help you navigate this question.

Fortunately, this problem has some relatively simple fixes, like taking the active forms of these nutrients so that your body doesn't have to figure out how (especially if it can't do it well!).

We're going to continue exploring this next week, since there are tons of preventive measures you can take, and this has only scratched the surface.

For more by Wendie Trubow, click here.

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