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This past week I had the privilege speaking at Curves “Girls Night In” in Brampton about breast cancer prevention. Although treatment and survival rates have improved over the past couple decades, breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, affecting 1/9 Canadian women. For those who missed it, here is a summary of the top 3 tips for breast cancer prevention:

1. Maintain a healthy body weight through proper nutrition and exercise. Fat is a metabolically active tissue, raising insulin levels and producing small amounts of estrogen. Higher exposure to both insulin and estrogen increases the chances of getting breast cancer.

2. Limit alcohol consumption. The link between alcohol use and breast cancer is well established. Compared to women who don’t drink, one glass of alcohol per day increases a woman’s risk by up to 13%, two drinks per day increases the risk up to 27%, and three drinks or more per day can increase the risk by 40-50%. The World Health Organization reports that alcohol consumption is a greater risk for breast cancer than being overweight, having a low intake of fruits and vegetables, or not being physically active.

3. Include these cancer-fighting foods in your daily diet as much as possible:

  • Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale). These vegetables contain sulforaphane to help the liver detoxify estrogen.
  • Ground flaxseeds – helps the body get rid of excess estrogen, promotes regular bowel movements.
  • Brazil nuts – wonderful source of selenium, which the liver converts to glutathione, one of the most powerful anti-oxidants the body can utilize.

An interesting area that is gaining more research is the impact of environmental chemicals on breast cancer risk. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has released a study linking higher rates of breast cancer with occupational exposure to pesticides, plastics, and heavy metals. While more research in this area is needed, there are a number of simple lifestyle modifications that can reduce your exposure to these chemicals:

1. Replace plastic Tupperware and plastic bottles with glass. If you do use plastic Tupperware, reserve for cold storage only and avoid exposing to heat (microwave, dishwasher, etc).

2. Consider switching to organic produce and meats. Visit the Environmental Working Group website (www.ewg.org) for this year’s “dirty dozen, clean fifteen” list. Wanigan offers organic produce at a reasonable price and will deliver fresh produce to your door (www.wanigan.com).