Going green for breast health

You may think “pink” when you consider breast cancer awareness, but in her recent blog, holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos encourages readers to think green for breast health instead. By that, she means green foods, green tea, green cleaning practices and green skin care.

Torkos notes that there are certain breast cancer risk factors that are beyond our control such as age (risk increases with age), gender (just being a woman), genetics (about 5-10% of cases are genetic), race (white women are at greater risk), and having dense breast tissue.

She explains that going green may help to counter some of those risk factors. “There is a lot of interest and research underway looking at the impact of environmental factors: our diets, air quality, and exposure to environmental chemicals,” she writes.

Her five green initiatives are:

1. Drink more green tea. “The antioxidant polyphenols in green tea offer a number of protective benefits. Preliminary research shows that they can inhibit tumor cell growth and spread, induce cancer cell death, modulate immune function and protect cells against DNA damage. One study of 181 healthy Japanese American women, conducted at the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute, found that those who drank at least one cup of green tea daily had less urinary estrogen, a known breast carcinogen, than the non-tea drinkers.

Sencha and matcha green teas contain more of the powerful antioxidants. Choose organic teas to avoid ingestion of potentially harmful pesticides that are associated with cancer. For those not keen on drinking green tea, look for a supplement that provides green tea extract standardized to EGCg, the key antioxidant attributed to the health benefits. To avoid any possible side effects associated with caffeine, look for a product that is decaffeinated.”

2. Eat more broccoli and cruciferous veggies such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage. “They contain sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol and other compounds that have been shown to be protective against cancer development. Several large studies have found that higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables are associated with lower risk for some types of cancer. increase and levels of 16-hydroxyestrogen decrease, the risk for breast cancer decreases.”

3. Load up on leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens. “These foods contain many vital vitamins such as folate, antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and fiber. Research suggests that the antioxidants and nutrients in these foods can fight cellular damage and inhibit growth of cancer cells. The fiber serves as a brush in the digestive system, helping to sweep out toxins.”

4. Go green for cleaning. “Many common household cleaners contain chemicals that linger on surfaces and in the air. Some of these chemicals are suspected to have carcinogenic properties. To reduce your exposure to these chemicals and save some money, try making your own green cleaning products. Vinegar and water can be used to clean many hard surfaces.”

5. Choose green skin care. “Chemicals linked to cancer, such as BHA and BHT, parabens and siloxanes, are found in many mainstream cosmetics, sunscreens and personal care products. Some of these chemicals have estrogen-like properties and can interfere with proper hormone function. Read labels carefully. Look for natural skin care products in your health food store or the natural products section of a grocery store.”

Read her blog for more compelling science related to reducing your breast cancer risk factors.

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