Breasts, Broccoli and Cancer

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the world today. More than 1.1 million women each year are diagnosed with breast cancer and over 200,000 of these women are Americans. These statistics are frightening especially in light of the fact that we are increasingly being told that genetics play such a major role in the development of cancer. The result is that most women feel helpless. As if getting cancer is as likely to happen as getting the flu.Fortunately, we are coming to understand that influences other than genetics are far more important in the development of cancer and can even override genetic ‘tendencies’. In January of 2008, the National Institute of Health announced that it would invest over $190 million over the subsequent five years into researching epigenetics. Epigenetic processes determine how a gene will be expressed and therefore control growth and development.Epigenetic refers to the fact that it is the environment of the cell that determines which genes will be turned on and which genes will be turned off. Clearly, if all of the 30,000 to 35,000 genes in our cells were turned on simultaneously, we would not only be totally dysfunctional and unable to sustain life, but we would not even look human. So, it is not the genetic code that influences health and disease but rather the delicate coordination of these genes turning on and off. It is this symphonic interplay of gene expression, which results in the unique complexity of every individual. Even identical twins change differently over time when exposed to different environments.What determines the environment of a cell? Diet and environmental conditions! Researchers have also come to understand that epigenetic changes can be passed on from generation to generation. So, what you eat and how you live can actually influence how your grandchildren will fare when they are born. This ‘inheritance’ is far more important than any amount of money or property that one could or would leave. Let health be your legacy.What in the world does this have to do with broccoli?There are over 300 case controlled studies, which clearly demonstrate that eating vegetables protects against the development of cancer, specifically vegetables that are in the genus of plants known as Brassica, and more specifically, broccoli. Other vegetables in this category include cabbage, watercress, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi and lesser known ones like Peruvian maca and mustards. As the number of servings eaten per month go up, the odds ratio of developing cancer drops significantly. For example, the odds ratio for breast cancer when five or more servings per week are eaten is 0.58, which is almost a 50% reduction in risk!Although researchers at the University of California at Berkeley discovered that a compound in Brassica vegetables is a powerful modulator of the immune system resulting in potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity, it is Dr. Jed Fahey who has been at the forefront in this explosive area of research.Dr. Jed Fahey is a Faculty Research Associate in the Department of Pharmacology, Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a plant physiologist who manages the university’s Brassica Chemoprotection Laboratory. Much of his work has been in the developing of cruciferous (Brassica) plants as chemoprotective agents.This information is becoming critically important and supremely relevant today. The WHO announced last year that by 2010, cancer would become the leading cause of death worldwide. The Multinational Brassica Genome Project (MBGP) and much of the research in this area can be found at in Italy published in the June, 2005 issue of the Journal of Nutrition that when they mixed cauliflower juice with breast cancer cells, not only did the cancerous cells stop growing, but at higher doses they were actually killed (they exploded), and not by the usual mechanism known as apoptosis. Furthermore, normal cells were not affected because, for some unknown reason, cauliflower has a preference for breast cancer cells over other mammalian cell lines. Even more remarkable is that this same effect was seen in both estrogen-receptor ER (+) and ER (-) cells. There is an obvious implication here that not only are these vegetables protective regarding the development of breast cancer, but they may even be useful in treating cancer once it has arisen.Metabolism and DetoxificationIt is not estrogen that is the problem in breast and other cancers, it is what the liver does with the estrogen…the metabolites. The cytochrome 1B1 enzymes in the liver are stimulated by cigarette smoke, charbroiling of flesh foods, the burning of different fuels as well as many other environmental toxins. These enzymes, in turn convert estrogen into 4-OH-estrone, (E1) a potent genotoxic (cancer producing) substance. On the other hand, 2-OH-E1 is a “good” estrogen metabolite that is produced by the cytochrome 1A1 enzymes of the liver, stimulated by broccoli and its Brassica cousins.One can easily measure the ratio of the 2-OH E1 to the 16-alpha-OH E1 in the urine over time (24 hours). If the ratio is low, the risk for breast cancer is increased, and if high, the risk is reduced. In fact, one pound of broccoli per day (approximately 500 gms) shifts the ratio significantly. For every 10 grams of broccoli consumed per day, there is an increase in the ratio of 0.8. Therefore, the recommended amount to be consumed for different individuals can be calculated readily, once these results have been obtained. The conclusion drawn by a respected cancer journal is that broccoli is an effective and acceptable strategy to prevent breast cancer.In addition to the metabolism of estrogens, the Brassica plants stimulate certain enzymes in the liver to enhance detoxification, which is of considerable import since we swim in a sea of carcinogenic toxins.The liver utilizes two mechanisms to remove toxins, referred to as Phase I and Phase II detoxification. In Phase I, liver enzymes modify toxic substances in order to make them recognizable to Phase II enzymes. In Phase II, a different set of enzymes convert these modified toxins into more water-soluble forms, which can then eliminated through the urine or the feces. The compounds in Brassica plants that make them bitter and give them a strong and sometimes disagreeable odor are actually the active, anti-cancer components. They function as the defense system of the plant, sort of like an ‘immune system’. They are known as phytoalexins. These substances are actually modified and used by the agriculture industry to develop pesticides and fumigants.Chemically, these compounds are known as glucosinolates, which are modified to become isothiocyanates (ITC), the active, anti-cancer compound. An enzyme known as myrosinase is released when these plants are injured which converts the glucosinolates into ITC, hence chewing is required to activate these anti-cancer compounds. The normal gut flora (healthy bacteria) also produces myrosinase, however, most Americans have taken too many antibiotics and other toxic chemicals, both voluntarily and involuntarily resulting in very unhealthy and unbalanced gut flora. So, it is advisable that we all chew thoroughly, just in case.These ITC compounds, after conversion from glucosinolates, greatly induce Phase II enzymes in the liver, which results in excretion of the carcinogens circulating throughout the body. Although these compounds from Brassica vegetables may modify the Phase I enzymes, they have a much greater effect on Phase II, which is why they are so important. Environmental toxins, such as dioxin (extremely poisonous), have their effect by inducing only Phase I enzymes, which activate many carcinogens. Without the concomitant activation of Phase II enzymes, the results are often fatal.These Brassica derived chemicals also stop the growth of cancer cells after the initiation phase (cancer cells begin), interfere with promoters that make cancer cells grow (such as estrogen), interfere with angiogenesis (blood vessel growth in tumors), activate apoptosis (cell death) and block rapid growth of cells. This data is found throughout the scientific literature in both in-vitro and animal studies.There are many excellent supplements containing flavonoids, quercitin, sulforaphanes and the other compounds derived from Brassica plants, but if one wishes to obtain these benefits in the most potent, efficacious and natural way, just eat them. A word of caution is in order. About 97% of these nutrients are lost with microwaving and 66% with boiling. Steaming is an acceptable way of preparing these vegetables for consumption, but raw, fresh and organic will give you what nature intended…a long and joyful life.

Breast Cancer and Natural Options

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. To date, modern medicine is still taking the invasive approach to preventing the disease. Prevention should be built around understanding the disease including such things as; knowing the risk factors and lifestyle changes (including my 4-Pillars of Great Health).Please don’t take me the wrong way, I believe there is a time and place for modern medicine. The modern medical world does-in most cases-have our best interest at heart. My regret is that too often it (modern medicine) looks at the surface of health instead of the root of the problem. There should be more focus on education about lifestyle changes and less spent on potentially bogus research.Who gets Breast Cancer?Remarkably, some women who have one or more risk factors never get breast cancer. And most women who do get breast cancer don’t have any risk factors at all. The crazy fact is-about 70% of women with breast cancer have no known risk factors. This is even more reason to live a healthier lifestyle. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.Things you can’t change

Age (risk rises as you get older)
Sex (100 times more common in women)
Race (Whites more than African-American, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian)
Menstrual Periods (women who begin before 12 or end after the age(s) of 55)
Breast lesions (previous breast biopsy with abnormal cells)
Things you can change (if it isn’t too late)

Child Birth (Either not having a child or having one after the age of 30)
Birth Control Pill use
Hormone Therapy
Not breast-feeding (breast-feeding lowers the risk)
Alcohol Use (especially 2 or more drinks per day)
Being Overweight
Exercise (increased activity decreases your risk)
Remember, risk factors are just that-having one or more of these will increase the possibility of developing the condition. Having any one of these isn’t necessarily a sentence of doom, but should be treated as a wake-up call to take better care of you.The following is based on “what would the Herbal Pharmacist do if he had this condition?” I choose to start with the following comments:1. The majority of women with breast cancer have no known risk factors2. No matter where the condition is-breast, colon, lung, etc.-CANCER can be life threatening.3. Modern medicine does acknowledge that lifestyle choices (being overweight, smoking, eating habits, not enough exercise, etc.) increase your risk of developing cancer.Having stated these (obvious to many) points, I am drawn to one conclusion: Lifestyle is the one constant in the majority (probably all-but I don’t have the time to look it up) of the forms of cancer we get. If we could just change certain things about how we live (LIFESTYLE) we probably wouldn’t get cancer. In past articles on cancer I stated that you won’t get cancer if your immune system is functioning optimally. Cancer cells are abnormal cells. If your immune system was working the way it should, it would identify the bad cells and destroy them. I believe that because of the many lifestyle choices we make (not following my 4-Pillars of Great Health), we place our bodies in harms way by decreasing the effectiveness of our immune system.As I state, the 4-Pillars are Supplements, Diet, Activity and Spirituality. Let’s start with Dietary supplements. Whether I have this condition or I am looking to not develop it, I would look to the same basic supplements. Doses may change based on your condition and its severity. (Someone with Stage IV cancer would be more aggressive with dosing than someone who is just looking at prevention) This is the laundry list of supplement you should consider:

Green Tea
Lignans (Flax)
EPA/DHA (Fish oil)
I3C (comes from cruciferous veggies) (besides diet, use cruciferous extracts)
Calcium D-Glucarate
Iodine (or other natural sources of this mineral)
Maitake Mushroom (extract-I prefer D-Fraction from Maitake Products)
Vitamin D3
Vitamin A (use caution-high doses are linked to liver damage)
Of these listed supplements, many can be purchased in “breast health” supplements. Examples such as Advanced Breast Support (M.D. Select) and Healthy Cells Breast (Enzymatic Therapy) would be a great step in the right direction. I would use these as part of my foundation when building the Herbal Pharmacist Dietary supplement program.The next level up would be to use a good antioxidant targeting your condition. Supplements like Super Critical Antioxidant (New Chapter) would be a great fit. You may wish to add more antioxidants if you wish to be more aggressive. Finding a combination antioxidant which contains CoQ10, A, and maybe the herbs Green Tea and Turmeric would be great. I also throw Flor*Essence Tea into this level. This amazing tea is ALWAYS part of my supplement recommendations for those with cancer concerns. Not only is it a great antioxidant, but also possesses detoxification properties. I especially like its ability to work on cleansing the lymphatic system. This system is critical in all forms of cancer, but especially breast cancer. I have had great success using this tea on a daily basis. Doses ranging from 1-2 ounces per day to the more aggressive 4-8 ounces per day (very severe cases) (this large dose will usually cause side effects like digestive discomfort and diarrhea)The third level of supplementation would be your fish oil supplement. The jury is still out on how much is enough without going overboard (no pun intended). I usually recommend we consume 2-3 grams per day as part of maintaining great health. Perhaps 5-10 grams per day would be considered the high end for a more aggressive approach.Even though a probiotic is not listed above, I believe we all should be taking a daily supplement of these friendly bacteria. There isn’t any research to say it helps, but with more “good guys” in your digestive system, your body can focus on doing positive work instead of energy on another health issue that my crop up due to insufficient friendly bacteria. Look for a guaranteed delivery product like Reuteri Pearls (Nature’s Way) or MD Select for blended formulations.As I always preach-you can’t do just one Pillar and expect to be a healthy individual. Let’s take a quick look at other recommendation for those concerned with Breast Cancer.DietI feel like a broke record, but here it goes. Throw away and stop consuming refined foods. (Especially Sugar and flour based products) I define a refined foods as a food that isn’t in its original state-Don’t Eat It! (Pasta, bread, bagels, refined oils, etc.) You can eat: Whole foods! Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, meats (organic lean cuts), chicken (organic), eggs (organic) and fish (not too much because of heavy metal toxicity) I prefer being heavy on the fruits and veggies and lighter on the animal proteins. If you are having trouble with the fruits and veggies, then buy powdered supplements that contain fruit and vegetable extracts. If you’re into soy, eat fermented soy products like tofu. (I recommend staying away from soy because there are too many conflicting studies about it being beneficial or harmful-especially with estrogen positive forms of cancer)ActivityStudies show that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. I teach in my seminars that regardless of health challenge you are fighting or preventing to walk briskly 30-45 minutes per day. Brisk walking is defined like this: If you are walking with someone and talking, you should be having trouble catching your breath. According to the American Cancer Society website ( ) one study found that as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 and a half hours of brisk walking per week reduced the risk by 18%. Their recommendation is you exercise for 45 to 60 minutes 5 or more days a weekMind/SpiritI have covered the power of prayer and the belief in GOD before. I think that the majority of us understand the power of religion (whatever you may follow) and our overall health outcome. I recommend we all take a deeper look into our hearts and souls to help us be healthier individuals. What about the mind/body connection? My favorite source for this is Louise Hay. Louise Hay believes there is a mental or emotional link to our health (and so do I). I recommend you get her book(s) and begin working on replacing your negative thought/emotion with a positive one. Too often we overlook the mind/spirit component of health. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired then there is no time like the present to start.