Tag Archives: breast cancer

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take the hurt out of HRT

By Michelle Kretzer

Unless you’ve been studying penguins in Antarctica for the last few days, you’ve probably been bombarded by fluffy pink displays reminding you to buy up fluffy pink tchotchkes for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But unless you’ve been studying them for the last few decades with no access to the Internet, you’re probably already aware of breast cancer. (And I’m sure that by now, even Antarctica is in possession of a pink doodad or two.)

As Breast Cancer Action asserted in its exposé of pinkwashing, “[I]f shopping could cure breast cancer, it would be cured by now.” Instead of spreading awareness of pink flip-flops, we should be spreading awareness of breast cancer risk factors and how to reduce them. But, unfortunately, prevention strategies don’t get enough attention.

Case in point: A just-released study about breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—the largest such study ever conducted—got appallingly little news coverage, even though researchers found that taking a combined progestogen and estrogen HRT pill tripled a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

The Institute of Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Now studied 100,000 women over 40 and concluded that those who took a combined estrogen and progestogen pill such as Prempro for approximately five years were 2.7 times as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as women who didn’t. Women who took the combined pill for 15 years or more increased their risk by 3.3 times. Fortunately, the risk began to fall once they stopped taking the pills.

We already know that Prempro’s sister drug, Premarin, is scary stuff. Researchers have linked its use to an increased risk of dementia, stroke and heart attack. Many women and physicians have shunned both drugs.

And there’s another reason why Premarin and Prempro will never occupy my medicine cabinet. Growing up in horse country, as I did in Kentucky, you develop a strong appreciation for these beautiful, intelligent, sensitive animals—a feeling that the manufacturers of Premarin and Prempro clearly don’t share.

Both drugs are made from pregnant mares’ urine. To obtain it, mares are repeatedly impregnated and then forced to wear rubber urine-collection bags at all times, which causes lesions on their skin. They’re confined to stalls so small that they can’t turn around or take more than a single step in any direction—and they’re denied sufficient drinking water so that their urine will yield more concentrated estrogen.

Some of the thousands of foals born on these farms each year are used to replace their exhausted mothers. Some are offered for adoption. The remaining foals are sold at auction, along with mares whose bodies are exhausted from the constant cycle of pregnancy and birth in abusive living conditions. Most are purchased for slaughter.

With my family history of breast cancer, I want to do everything I can to combat the disease, but I won’t be spending any money on pink-ribbon products or on dangerous, urine-derived drugs like Premarin or Prempro. When I hit menopause, I’ll feel confident asking my doctor about alternatives, such as HRTs made from plant-derived phytoestrogens.

Women deserve better than token pinkwashed “awareness” products, and we all deserve better than dangerous drugs that harm both animals and our health.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Enough with the pink — go green!!

By Michelle Kretzer
 
It’s October, which means that every store we stroll into and every website we visit is going to bombard us with pink tchotchkes “for the cure.” Well, forgive me if my home décor isn’t in the style of Barbie’s Dreamhouse®. It’s not that I don’t give a hoot about breast cancer—quite the contrary. My beloved grandmother lost her fight with breast cancer at just 64 years old, and other women in my family have battled the disease, too, so stopping breast cancer is a cause close to my heart. But I know there are much better ways for me to help save women’s lives than by going to the mall—such as by going to the farmer’s market.
 
The strong evidence linking meat and dairy products to cancer can’t be ignored.
 
Animal-derived foods are full of saturated fat, excess protein, hormones and other harmful substances that can raise a person’s risk for breast cancer. According to Dr. Jane Plant, a British scientist, cancer survivor and author of The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program, “Undoubtedly, the best anti-cancer diet would be to go completely vegan.”
 
It’s telling that in countries such as the U.S., where people get a high percentage of their calories from meat and dairy products, there are a lot more cases of breast cancer. By contrast, in Japan, people get far fewer calories from animal-derived foods, and breast cancer rates are low. But when Japanese girls are raised on Western diets, their breast cancer rates surge.
 
According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University and director of the China Project, the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted, “[No] chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” Large studies of vegetarians in Germany and England found that vegetarians were about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer than their meat-eating counterparts.
 
That’s why many nutritionists recommend what dietician and author Julieanna Hever calls The Vegiterranean Diet in her book of the same name: all the colorful, varied, whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, with none of the cancer-causing meat and dairy products.
 
I’ve discovered that cancer prevention is just one of many benefits to going vegan. Since I ditched all animal-derived foods, I don’t have to struggle so much to maintain my desired weight, my skin looks clearer and I have more energy. I’ve also learned that when you stop centering your meals on meat, you start incorporating a much wider variety of foods and open yourself up to a whole new world of flavors.
 
And there’s another reason to “go green” rather than pink this month. As the watchdog group Think Before You Pink points out, “[I]f shopping could cure breast cancer, it would be cured by now.” But many companies throw a pittance at a breast cancer charity in order to slap a pink ribbon on their products and rake in huge profits. Worse, many of the organizations they support waste that money on antiquated experiments on animals that in more than four decades haven’t produced a cure. Funding patient services for poor families, education and vital research that does not rely on animal models would be a much better use of that money.
 
Because of my family history, I’m considered at high risk for breast cancer, and reducing that risk is important to me. So this October, you’ll find me in the produce section, not strolling the mall looking like I washed a red towel with all my whites. I invite other women to join me in combating breast cancer by investing in effective cruelty-free charities and in their own health.
 
 

Everyone who’s ready to stop breast cancer, raise your forks!

By Michelle Kretzer

Researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute just released the findings of their new study that confirms, once again, a link between high cholesterol and breast cancer. In human breast cancer tissue cells, the researchers observed that a byproduct of cholesterol fuels both the growth and spread of breast tumors. Scientists say the research suggests that women may be able to reduce their risk of breast cancer by taking cholesterol-lowering drugs or eating a healthy, low-cholesterol diet.

Personally, I would rather increase my intake of colorful meals than colorful medicines. Fruits and vegetables have zero cholesterol, which is just one reason why you’ll find scores of them on any list of “cancer-fighting foods.” Whole grains and beans are cholesterol-free, too. In fact, no plant foods contain cholesterol.

But meat, eggs and dairy products all pack a cholesterol punch. A single egg has 212 milligrams, 3.5 ounces of shrimp has 194 and 3.5 ounces of chicken liver delivers a whopping 631 milligrams. And cholesterol isn’t the only thing that’s troubling about animal products, as far as the risk of breast cancer is concerned. Those foods are also full of saturated fat, excess protein, hormones and other harmful substances that can raise a person’s risk for breast cancer. According to Dr. Jane Plant, a British scientist, cancer survivor and author of The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program, “Undoubtedly, the best anti-cancer diet would be to go completely vegan.”

I lost the person I was closest to—my grandmother—to breast cancer when she was just 64 years old, and other women in my family have had the disease as well. So reducing my breast cancer risk is of major importance to me. Cutting animal products out of my diet seems like one way that I can easily slash my risk, without any of the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

I stopped eating meat 12 years ago, and although I also cut dairy products out of my diet three years ago, I wish I’d done so sooner. I’ve discovered that there are lots of fringe benefits to eating a healthy vegan diet. I don’t have to struggle so much to maintain my desired weight, my skin looks clearer and I have more energy. I’ve also learned that when you stop making your meals reliant on meat, you start incorporating a much wider variety of foods and you open yourself up to a whole new world of flavors. And I enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that no animals suffered and died just so that I could enjoy a fleeting taste of their flesh.

Going vegan is one of the best decisions that I have ever made, and I hope others will join me in taking this important step for their own health.

Pink buckets and bacon ribbons won’t beat breast cancer

By Heather Moore

There’s nothing wrong with your vision. Everything has a pink hue because it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many companies are going overboard with pink products. Most of them mean well, of course, but some are just pinkwashing—acting like breast cancer crusaders, even though they peddle products that contribute to the disease. In early October, for example, Smithfield Foods and other businesses sponsored a bacon festival in honor of breast cancer month. The logo featured a strip of bacon in the shape of a pink ribbon—because nothing says “breast cancer awareness” like saturated fat and concentrated protein.

Companies such as Smithfield and KFC—which took heat for once selling its carcinogenic chicken in pink buckets to “support” Susan G. Komen for the Cure—aren’t just hurting animals. They’re causing people to suffer as well. If we want to ward off breast cancer and save animals and the environment, too, we must see pinkwashing efforts for what they really are—and opt for vegan foods instead of animal-based ones.

The saturated fat, excess protein, hormones and other harmful substances found in animal-based foods raise a person’s risk for breast cancer. A study involving more than 900,000 women indicates that women who eat more than one and a half servings of beef, lamb or pork a day in their 20s, 30s and 40s are twice as likely to develop breast cancer as women who eat less than three servings of meat a week.

One serving of beef is about the size of a deck of cards. Two slices of Canadian bacon or three strips of regular bacon count as one serving of pork. A serving isn’t much meat, but it’s much more than we need, and many Americans eat more than two servings—7.5 ounces of meat or more—every day.

A recently released study from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu suggests that premenopausal women who eat higher amounts of meat have higher levels of serum estrogen, a female sex hormone that boosts the risk for breast cancer.

Dairy products, which reportedly account for 60 to 80 percent of the estrogens that many women consume, also accelerate the growth of cancer cells. According to Dr. Jane A. Plant, a British scientist, cancer survivor and author of The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program, “Undoubtedly, the best anti-cancer diet would be to go completely vegan.”

Wholesome plant-based foods are generally low in saturated fat and rich in fiber and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. The American Cancer Society not only encourages people to eat healthy plant foods but also states that soy foods can reduce your risk for breast cancer.

Anne McTiernan, a researcher with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, says that women can prevent breast cancer by exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Research shows that the average vegan is 18 percent leaner than his or her meat-eating counterpart and that vegans are 40 percent less likely to develop cancer.

Continuing to eat unhealthy foods—even if those foods do come in pretty pink packages—and hoping to beat cancer at the same time is folly. So whenever you see pink this month, consider it a reminder to “eat green.” If you want to buy something pink, opt for Pink Lady apples, pink grapefruit, pink rhubarb or other pink produce. After all, October isn’t just National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s also Vegetarian Awareness Month.

Go veggie to beat breast cancer! Doctor’s orders!

By Heather Moore

Now that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has begun, many doctors and nutritionists are dishing out dietary advice to help women ward off the deadly disease. After reviewing the latest research, responsible medical experts, including those with the American Cancer Society and New York’s Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, have come to a consensus: Women should eat a plant-based diet rich in phytochemicals, which fight inflammation and knock out carcinogens. This invaluable advice should shift our focus from wearing pink to eating green—in other words, to eating wholesome vegan foods.

While fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and soy foods contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals, all that animal-based foods have to offer are cholesterol and cancer-causing substances, including concentrated protein, hormones and saturated fat. As many as one-third of common types of cancer, including breast cancer, are linked to excess weight and inactivity, and it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight if you eat vegan foods. They tend to be low in fat and calories, unlike fatty animal-based foods, such as hamburgers, chicken and cheese. Studies even show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters and that vegans are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than nonvegans. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that October is also World Vegetarian Awareness Month.

A Washington State University professor recently identified more than 40 plant-based compounds that help slow the progression of cancer. His findings, which are published in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, support the claim that people who eat a plant-based diet are less likely to get cancer.

High-fat animal-based foods raise estrogen levels, accelerating the growth of cancer cells. In contrast, plant-based foods tend to keep estrogen at a safe level. Researchers with Boston University tracked more than 50,000 African-American women for 12 years—1,300 of them developed breast cancer, and 35 percent of the cases were estrogen receptor-negative, a highly aggressive form of the disease. The women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day were 43 percent less likely to develop highly aggressive breast cancer than those who ate less than four servings of vegetables per week. Women who eat carrots and cruciferous vegetables, in particular, seem to have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

The lead researcher noted that high vegetable consumption offers significant health benefits, including protection against cancer. This conclusion is hardly an earth-shattering revelation, but it should give both men and women some food for thought. People who are concerned about cancer—or heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions—would be wise to choose vegan foods.

Another study, conducted by the University of Utah, found that women who eat healthy “native” Mexican foods, including beans, spices and tomato-based sauces, have a 32 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who eat a typical Western-style diet, which is heavy in meat and cheese.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who stars in the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives, says that “no chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” He urges people to eat vegan meals in order to prevent cancer and other common diseases. More doctors should follow his example. While many physicians can perform mastectomies, administer chemotherapy and offer other important medical services, the ones who give patients preventive dietary advice will ultimately be the real lifesavers.

KFC’s (Kentucky Fried Chicken’s) “pink buckets”: recipe for cancer

By Elaine Sloan

As a breast cancer survivor, I’ve seen many tasteless examples of “pinkwashing” over the years. But KFC’s new “Buckets for the Cure” campaign takes the cake. The chicken chain is peddling pink buckets of chicken — available in stores through the end of May — ostensibly to raise funds for breast cancer research.

This is the same company that recently introduced the fat and sodium nightmare known as the Double Down sandwich — slices of bacon and cheese tucked between two chicken fillets. Continue reading KFC’s (Kentucky Fried Chicken’s) “pink buckets”: recipe for cancer