Weight gain and increased breast cancer risk

August 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Womens Health


It’s a natural tendency for women to gain weight as they go through menopause and the body lays down fat cells to provide the oestrogen that is lacking from the natural cycle. We know that the highest risk group are women over 50, they comprise around 80 percent of cases, but there are now two new studies that show that a woman’s risk is increased if she is seriously overweight – whatever her age.

Previously it was believed that postmenopausal women were the most at risk but the study by scientists at Geneva University, Switzerland, have shown that it is a woman’s lipid profile and oestradiol levels related to her weight are also determining factors. They found that in their study of women aged 25-80 years old that obese women presented significantly more often with stage III and stage IV cancer and the figures are extraordinary:

** these women were a staggering 180% more likely to have later stage breast cancer than women of normal weight.

** they were also 240% more likely to have tumours that were equal to or greater in size than 1 centimeter

** their chances of having positive lymph nodes were 510% more likely than normal weight women and this suggests cancer may have spread to other parts of their bodies

Not only does obesity clearly increase breast cancer risk, but other research has shown it shortens the time between return of the disease and lowers overall survival rates. In 2007, Italian researchers went presented evidence that a hormone found in fat cells called leptin significantly influences breast cancer development. Leptin is a hormone derived from fat cells that sends messages to the body that it is time to stop eating. Obese people often do not have a clear signal from the leptin receptor and it is this failure that has previously been shown to be involved in the development of breast cancer. Leptin has been found in 86.4% of primary breast tumours. This is because it increases the amount of oestradiol in breast tissue and we know that excess oestrogen is associated with breast cancer.

Normalising leptin function is therefore critical in cancer risk individuals as it is the single most important hormone for controlling our body weight control. Because leptin regulates our thyroid, insulin, growth, and adrenal hormones it is vital for regulating all our metabolic processes.

What can you do?

Anyone with a pattern on consistently overeating will become leptin resistant, which means that leptin is unable to deliver its message to the brain to stop eating. To regulate and redress this you need to first drastically cut out any consumption of processed carbohydrates and focus on a diet of natural whole foods. A good night’s sleep is also important and light interrupts leptin function so make sure your bedroom is really dark and don’t put on lights to go the bathroom but put in a low plug light to show you the way. Exercise in a moderate will help, and so will reducing any stress in your life. My own stress book is now available as an ebook for immediate download at www.sortingstressout.com but if you prefer a real paperback I have some copes available, just email me.

If sugar is an addiction for you, then speak to a herbalist and look at some of the herbs like Gymnema sylvestre, and Inula racemosa to help reduce the desire for sweet tasting foods and help bring the taste system back to natural balance.

60 percent increased prostate cancer risk from overcooked meat


In this weather it’s tempting to bring out the barbecue, though personally I have never had a decent steak off one yet, and there is always the problem of overcooking. Blackened steak might taste ok whether on the barbecue or the grill, but it does pose a health hazard – particularly for men.

Overcooking causes problems for vegetables too as they lose their nutritional value, but there are possible carcinogenic effects in meat, and eggs, that are definitely hazardous to health. When they are cooked at very high temperatures they produce a chemical compound called PhIP, which many believe can cause DNA changes, or can metabolize harmless bodily enzymes into carcinogens.

There is already a well documented link with PhlP and breast cancer and now the University of Minnesota has undertaken research that they say shows that that regularly eating well-done, or burned, meat could boost the risk of pancreatic cancer by a staggering 60 percent. It’s because overcooking creates heterocyclic amines (H.A.s), which contribute to increased risk of pancreatic cancer and it’s in the burned portions of the meat that the greatest concentration of H.A.’s are found.

So turn down the heat and turn up your chances of avoiding cancer.


Mother-daughter breast cancer link

May 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Womens Health

It was reported by the MLA University Health Network on 3 May that a unique mother-daughter study shows that the percentage of water in the breast could be linked to the risk of breast cancer in older women.

Breast density is an inheritable characteristic that is known to be a cancer risk factor and by using magnetic resonance to measure breast density in younger women the Canadian researchers at The Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at Princess Margaret Hospital in Ontario. Higher blood growth hormone concentrations were also linked to higher percent breast water and results showed that each 5cm difference in height in daughters was associated with 3% increase in percent breast water, which suggests a mechanism by which growth might affect the risk of cancer. They believe this could help in developing prevention methods as breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer in middle aged and older women as the breast is most susceptible to the effects of carcinogens at early ages. Their findings suggest that by identifying the environmental and genetic factors that influence breast tissue composition in early life they may be able to develop safe and effective methods of prevention.

Breast cancer natural preventives


As I always believe prevention is better than cure, I am happy to report two new pieces of information this week on easy, natural and enjoyable ways to reduce breast cancer risk.

Breakthrough 1 gives you even more reasons to enjoy a nice cup of tea. If you are a regular black or green tea drinker then you are already helping to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and endometrial cancer. Regular tea drinking has two important functions: it inhibits uncontrolled cell growth, known as cell proliferation, and encourages the death of cancer cells, known as apoptosis. A recent study found that smokers who drank four cups of decaffeinated green tea per day showed a 31 percent decrease in oxidative DNA damage in white blood cells as compared to those who drank four cups of water. Oxidative DNA damage is implicated in the promotion of many forms of cancer. Now a new study has also linked tea to a substantial decrease in breast cancer risk. Particularly for women under 50, the risk is reduced by 37%, and as this is the group in whom the cancer can be particularly virulent and fast acting this is very worthwhile news. In fact, let’s raise a cup together, preferably green or white tea as these are the least processed. The darker the tea, the more processing as a rule, but these two have even more health benefits, and up that to three cups a day to boost your immune system and lower your cancer risk.

Breakthrough 2 concerns another favourite staple, and that is olive oil. Australian researchers have reported that that olive oil has a host of positive health effects, and now researchers from the Catalonian Institute of Oncology (ICO) in Girona have discovered specifically that extra virgin olive oil appears to be a powerful weapon against breast cancer.

The key ingredient is the polyphenols that are present in extra virgin olive oil. These are powerful natural antioxidants found in abundance in olive oil and are highly active against both HER2-positive and HER2-negative breast cancers cells. Polyphenols in the oil not only inhibit the activity of cancer-promoting HER2 activity but also promotes the protein’s degradation.

As Jamie Oliver would say, give it a good glug and not only will your food taste better, but your cells will thank you.

Two Cancer Breakthroughs


The first breakthrough refers to women who have had breast cancer. The survival rate after treatment has improved, and it always helps to know about anything extra you can do to make those odds even better. One of the risk areas post breast cancer is that survivors have a lifetime risk for developing lymphedema as a result of surgery or radiotherapy. This is a chronic condition that occurs when lymphatic fluid builds up in the soft tissues of the body, usually in an arm or leg, as a result of damage or blockage in the lymph nodes and results in swelling of the affected limbs. Lymphedema is a risk for approximately two-thirds of breast cancer survivors in the 30 months after surgery and those who develop post-op swelling have a significantly higher risk of up to 40 percent. It is the second biggest concern, after the recurrence of the cancer itself, and if you are unfortunate enough to develop chronic lymphedema it can be difficult to treat. The swollen limbs can become vulnerable to infection from even a minor injury to the skin, such as a cut, scratch, insect bite, or even athlete’s foot. This condition is called lymphangitis and affects the connective tissue under the skin. Repeated infections can cause scarring that makes the tissue vulnerable to more swelling and infection. Unfortunately lymphedema can lay dormant and symptoms can occur 15 or more years following an injury to your lymphatic system. The good news is that one way to combat this problem is to ensure that there is no risk of seriously being overweight or obese after cancer treatment as a new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia, published on 2 January, found that the risk of developing lymphedema is 40-60 percent higher in women with a high BMI (Body Mass Index).

Breakthrough two is not ready to launch yet, but there is a way you can take action by utilising that old hospital visitor standby and taking a cancer patient a large bunch of grapes. Make sure they are white grapes, as The American Cancer Association has reported that researchers from the University of Kentucky have been feeding grape-seed extract to laboratory mice and found that it kills leukemia cells. Apparently it forces the damaged cells to commit cell suicide and does it effectively as the researchers found within 24 hours, 76 percent of such cells had died after being exposed to the extract. This isn’t the first time that grape seed extract has been tested for various types of cancer, but this is the first time it has been looked at in relation the blood and bone marrow cancer cells. The key factor is that the grape seed extract affects the cancer cells, but leaves normal cells alone.This research is at its early stages, but it’s a good reason to include grapes in your healthy five a day – just don’t peel them Beulah, eat them skin, seed and all.

Breast cancer treatment optimism

December 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Natural Medicine, Womens Health

News from Greece has confirmed that the new chemotherapy agents are cutting advanced breast cancer mortality in half. This reassuring news comes from a review of published studies, by John P. A. Ioannidis, M.D., of the University of Ioannina, and reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. They looked at 122 clinical trials involving 26,031 patients and 22 different types of therapy.

Their conclusion was that the advent of the new anthracycline drugs led to a 22% reduction in mortality risk compared with older nonanthracycline drugs, and that the introduction of taxanes resulted in a 33% risk reduction compared with older single-agent therapy. Taken together this means that the newer taxane-based combination treatments such as those involving capecitabine (Xeloda), or gemcitabine (Gemzar), have reduced mortality by 51% compared to the single-agent treatment in use 35 years ago.

Now I know chemotherapy is not the favoured option for many people and they choose to go on any of the alternative routes from Chinese Medicine to Spiritual healing, however, if you are undergoing chemotherapy there is an excellent homoeopathic remedy that can help alleviate some of the side effects. Many homoeopathic chemists have their own variation so ask locally or I can recommend an excellent chemist in Dorset who make their own tablets and are happy to speak with you on the phone about your requirements. They are the Galen pharmacy and their telephone number is 01305 263996 or if you would like to read more about natural treatments for cancer a book I recommend is Say No to Cancer by Patrick Holford and an interesting website to check out is www.cancertruth.net which is American but will give you some food for thought.

PS – if you or someone you know has been affected by cancer, then here’s a chance to walk, jog, run and have fun at 5k events across the UK, to help raise as much money as possible to beat cancer. Women only can run, but men are very welcome as supporters, coaches and fundraisers at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life events taking place in 2009. If you are interested, they are open for entries on 19 January and for more information visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0871 641 2282

Exercise lowers post menopausal breast cancer risk

November 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Fitness & Sport, Womens Health

Breast cancer is a serious concern for women, and anything we can do to minimise that risk has got to be good news – especially when it’s natural, and free. An eleven year follow up study from the National Cancer Institute in the USA on over 23,000 women, appears to suggests that women who reported the highest levels of physical activity had an almost 20% lower risk of breast cancer compared with women who exercised the least. Two pointers here: the activity has to be vigorous or it appears to have no influence on reducing the risk, and the benefits were seen only in women who were fairly slim. As postmenopausal women have a tendency to put on weight, it seems as though combining exercise with a sensible diet might also be in order.

The survey defined vigorous activity to include scrubbing floors, chopping wood, and running or fast jogging. Though obviously not at the same time – how many women in the States still chop wood? They also defined non-vigorous exercise as activities including washing clothes, lawn mowing, and walking. They obviously have much more powerful lawn powers in the US that do all the work for you, rather than the old push-me pull-you mowers of my childhood which no one could define as non-vigorous as the aching back and arms afterwards would testify.

The message is clear; if you want to avoid post-menopausal breast cancer – especially if you have any history of it in your family – you could start by walking briskly to the nearest salsa class and then jogging home.


If you are thinking of taking up running the marathon – as many do to help breast cancer charities – then please approach with caution and do it under professional supervision. Why? Well, there is now accumulating evidence from recent studies that pushing your body to run 26.2 miles can cause at least minor injury to your heart.

Dr Arthur Siege is director of internal medicine at Harvard’s McLean Hospital in, Massachusetts – and he has run 20 marathons. He is the ideal man to study the subject and he has published many studies on the health consequences of marathons. His main conclusions that you might want to think about before you strap on the running shoes are that the physical effects of running a marathon include changes in your immune system and kidney function, but obviously your muscles take the worst punishment. The further you run then your muscles stiffen and this can result in injury-signalling enzymes leaking through the heart membrane, and that is consistent with significant stress on the heart.

Another good reason for women to be happy

September 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Mental Health, Womens Health

As I cast a damper on women’s consumption of orange juice recently, I thought I would redress the balance by promoting the real health benefits of optimism for women who want to avoid breast cancer.

A study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel has found that women who are happy and optimistic appear to be less likely to get breast cancer than their gloomier counterparts. Also, women who had experienced more than one major tragedy in their lives, such as the death of a close family member or a serious illness, were significantly more likely to have the disease.

The researchers were able to conclude that experiencing more than one meaningful life event (severe and/or mild to moderate) is a risk factor for breast cancer among young women and that general feelings of happiness and optimism can play a protective role against the disease.

This points up yet again the importance of the relationship between happiness and health for all of us. Indeed, some previous studies have suggested a link between stressful life events, psychological distress, and cancer. It is believed by many therapists that psychological stress may contribute to an increase in cancer by modifying cell responses to environmental factors, but it is still unproven.

We already know that an optimistic outlook can actually increase your lifespan, and now it seems it can protect you against one of our most feared diseases.

HRT and cancer again

March 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Medical Research & Studies, Womens Health

It was widely reported in March 2008 that breast cancer survivors, who were afterwards treated with HRT, had a more than two-fold increased risk of a recurrence. According to long-term follow-up data from a randomised clinical trial, after five years women with previous breast cancer had a recurrence rate of 22.2% compared with 8% in women who received no hormone therapy. The study was undertaken at King’s College London, and scary though it is, I would suggest any woman with follow up care for breast cancer examines her options carefully.

This study does not, sadly, stand alone as more recently, data from the Women’s Health Initiative and the Million Women Study provided additional compelling evidence of an increased risk of breast cancer among HRT users, according to the King’s College researchers and authors of the above study.

It is the oestrogen in HRT that is the problem, as it causes proliferation of the cells, so investigate alternatives such as natural progesterone. An excellent book on this is the one by the late John Lee, MD called ‘What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer’, and the straightforward book I co-wrote with Dr Shirley Bond on the applications of the hormone and called simply ‘Natural Progesterone’ and which is available from the website at www.catalystonline.co.uk

Girls reaching puberty as early as 8 in the USA

October 17, 2007 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Sexual Health, Womens Health

Health care professionals in the natural hormone field, like Dr John Lee, have been expressing concern for some years that the onset of puberty in girls is happening at a much earlier age than in previous generations. Their concern has centred on the fact that reaching puberty at a very early age will increase their risk of breast cancer because puberty exposes girls to more oestrogen. High levels of oestrogen are a known risk factor for breast cancer and indeed can cause it to flourish. According to a report by American biologist Sandra Steingraber, puberty is now occurring more regularly at the age of 8, rather than at 13 which was the previous norm. Her data indicates that if you get your first period before age 12, your risk of breast cancer is 50 percent higher than if you get it at age 16 and so her theory is that for every year we could delay a girl’s first menstrual period we could prevent thousands of breast cancers. Early puberty also has social and emotional implications for these young girls but hard evidence on what causes it are not known. Sandr Steingraber herself believes there are a number of causes but that is likely an ecological disorder arising from the increased amounts of oestrogen in our food and water, exposure to environmental chemicals coupled with increased childhood obesity and a substantial drop in exercise and activity like outdoor games.

« Previous Page