Breast cancer develops when breast cells divide and grow without control and form a cancerous (malignant) mass or tumor. Most breast tumors are non-cancerous (benign), and their cells don’t spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. A cancerous breast tumor, conversely, is made up of destructive cells that are invasive and do metastasize to other parts of the body. These mutated cells penetrate and destroy the surrounding, healthy body tissues. But not all breast cancers have the same degree of aggressiveness or potential to spread. There are different forms of breast cancer and each varies in regards to its invasiveness. The most common forms include:
- Infiltrating ductal carcinoma - Infiltrating ductal carcinoma is an invasive cancer which accounts for nearly 80% of all diagnosed breast cancer cases.
- Ductal carcinoma in situs - Ductal carcinoma in situs is classified as a non-invasive form of cancer.
- Infiltrating lobular carcinoma - Infiltrating lobular carcinoma is considered both aggressive and invasive.
Many women share a common fear of developing breast cancer. Other than nonmelanoma skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women. Breast cancers remain the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 40 and 55. Men may also develop abnormalities in breast tissue and are not excluded from the development of certain breast cancers. The probability of this, however, is extremely rare.
Breast cancer rates have been steadily increasing over the decades. A woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is now approximately 1 in 8. It is now thought that 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are caused by genetic predisposition. These women are at increased risk if their mother or sister(s) were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40, if both developed it before the age of 60, or if three family members were diagnosed with breast cancer at any age.
Additional risk factors for breast cancer include; gender, age, previous breast cancer diagnosis, benign breast disease, early onset of menstruation, late menopause, late childbearing, never having been pregnant, obesity, low physical activity, use of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, use of oral contraceptives, exposure to ionizing radiation, nutrient deficiencies, high alcohol consumption, large breast size, and smoking.
According to the American Cancer Society (1):
- Approximately 175,000 American women and 1300 American men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women today (after lung cancer).
- Approximately 43,300 women and 400 men will die from breast cancer in 2004.
- The death rates from breast cancer declined significantly in the 1990s, most probably due to earlier detection and more effective treatments.
Having regular monthly breast self-exams, and yearly clinical breast exams are considered the most effective ways to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. There are often times NO physical symptoms associated with the onset of this disease. The primary sign, or symptom, associated with breast cancer is finding a breast lump by self-exam, clinical breast exam, or mammogram. Pain or tenderness may also be present in the breast. If a lump is found, a biopsy is necessary to determine if the lump is benign or malignant in nature.
Early detection and diagnosis are of primary importance in the successful treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer can be detected at its earliest, most treatable stage with regular monthly breast self-exams and yearly clinical breast exams. The clinical setting offers such diagnostic tools such as mammography, sonography, contrasting magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and thermography. Breast cancer treatments may include:
- Surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy, removal of ovaries)
- Chemotherapy (cytotoxic drugs to kill cancer cells)
- Radiation therapy (high-dose x-rays, used to kill cancer cells)
- Hormone therapy (anti-estrogen drugs, such as tamoxifen and raloxifene)
Breast cancer risk can be dramatically reduced by preventive measures such as, proper education, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, a consistent exercise program, and additional dietary supplementation via nutritional supplements.
Green Tea Green tea may assist in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Green tea contains the polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This flavonoid has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in clinical study. (2) More specifically, the consumption of green teas may be an important component in the treatment programs of pre-menopausal women with stage I and II breast cancer breast, as it has been shown to decrease the number of axillary lymph node metastases in these women (3, 4).
Melatonin Women with breast cancer often exhibit diminished melatonin levels. Low levels of melatonin have been associated with breast cancer occurrence and development. (5) An adequate output of melatonin is essential in breast cancer sufferers. Studies have shown that melatonin may actually inhibit tumor growth and invasiveness in vitro, and may act as a natural anti-estrogen on breast cancer cells (6-8).
Selenium Compound SE-Methylselonocysteine (SeMSC) The selenium-amino acid compound SE-methylselenocysteine, or SeMSC, may be a legitimate compound which assists in treating specific forms of breast cancer. Studies show that MSC inhibits breast tumor growth and invasiveness both in vivo and in vitro (9-12).
CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that is often deficient in breast cancer patients. (13) CoQ10 may have a beneficial effect in preventing and treating breast cancer. In a clinical study, 32 breast cancer patients were treated with a nutritional protocol consisting of CoQ10, fatty acids, and antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and selenium. Six of these participants experienced partial tumor regression (14). Another study concerning CoQ10 supplementation has even demonstrated the possibility of a complete regression of breast tumors. (15)
Omega-3 / Essential Fatty Acids Studies have found that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and flaxseed can help prevent and treat breast cancer (16, 17). A prospective study of 35,298 Singapore Chinese women aged 45-74 years, revealed that women who consumed high amounts of dietary omega-3 fatty acids from fish and shellfish had a reduced risk of breast cancer. (18)
Multivitamins (Vitamins A, D, and E) Vitamins help the immune system optimally function. For complete protection, a nutritional program should include a high potency multivitamin/mineral supplement. Studies reveal that high doses of vitamins A, D, and E can help prevent and treat breast cancer (19-22). When high doses of vitamins A and D are taken over a long period of time, one should receive monthly blood tests to make sure toxicity does not occur. Also, high doses of vitamin E (a potential blood thinner) may require regular monitoring of clotting factors if anticoagulant drugs are also being taken.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) helps transport dietary fat into cells, where it is then used to produce energy. CLA is also stored in mammary fat cells. Studies shown that additional amounts of CLA in breast tissue may inhibit breast cancer cell growth, and help in preventing the disease itself (23-25).
1. Breast Cancer Cases/Deaths Per Year (U.S. and World)
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