Dr Leow shares on breast cancer and the superfoods that can lower your risk of contracting the disease
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide and the most common cancer among women. The survival rate of breast cancer in Malaysia is 49%, which means 51% of women who discovered that they had cancer, did not make it out alive. Grim statistics, but ones you should equip yourself with to start taking action. Early detection and intervention will raise your chances of beating the cancer, but prevention is always better than cure.
Understand the factors which affect your risks of contracting breast cancer:
- The later the age of your first menstrual cycle, the lower your risk
- Full-term pregnancy at an early age lowers your risk
- Being overweight increases your risk of postmenopausal breast cancer
- Use of hormone replacement therapy increases your risk, but this increase in risk has been reported to disappear shortly after hormone use is discontinued
- Being older at the time of the last menstrual cycle increases your risk compared with women who have had their last menstrual cycle at a younger age
- Use of oral contraceptive increases risk of postmenopausal breast cancer
- Alcohol drinkers have higher risk than those who don’t drink at all (as alcohol increase the level of oestrogen)
Diet changes you can make today to counter or prevent cancer
When Dr Leow encountered a patient that was diagnosed with the last stage of breast cancer, the patient was devastated and depressed as the oncologist had told her to enjoy her last six months in her life. Dr Leow then advised her to shift from a normal diet to a vegetarian diet. He told her to steam all the organic vegetables and to do without salt and oil during food preparation. Surprisingly, after seven years, Dr Leow was able to meet her and have a wonderful dinner with her.
This isn’t so surprising because female vegetarians have been reported to have lower oestrogen levels compared with meat-eating women. By adopting a healthier diet now, you too can lower your risk of contracting breast cancer.
8 breast cancer-fighting superfoods
These juicy red globes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that is similar to beta-carotene. Lycopene is able to stop production of cancer cells. Higher intake of tomatoes reportedly reduces risk of variety of cancers in 57 of 72 studies. Tomatoes also improve condition of prostate and lung cancer, and they taste great in sandwiches!
While they may make you cry, onions contain bioflavonoid quercetin which inhibits malignant cell growth. What’s great about onions is that cooking does not destroy the effectiveness of quercetin (a pigment in plant that reduces allergic responses or boost immunity).
This smelly guy is also a rich source of the potent anti-cancer bioflavonoid quercetin. Besides that, garlic is also packed with large amounts of antiviral, antibiotics and antifungal/anti-yeast compounds such as allicin. This will help in treating the yeast infection that happens concurrently with breast cancer. Garlic compounds appear to be effective against leukaemia as well.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Commonly found in fish, omega-3 fatty acids are seen to be responsible for protection against cancer. Fish eaters have a reportedly lower risk of contracting breast cancer. This is why fish oil supplements are always associated with reducing the risk of contracting breast cancer.
5. Olive oil
A study showed that oleic acid that’s found in olive oil (especially extra virgin olive oil) dramatically decreases the growth of aggressive forms of breast tumours in test tubes. So start dousing your salads with a mixture of olive oil and a little wine vinegar!
6. Brassicagenus vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower etc)
Despite its fancy name, this vegetable family includes the common suspects in our markets like cabbage, turnip, kale, cauliflower and broccoli. Brussels sprouts have been recommended in general by the National Cancer Institute for cancer prevention properties. These contain dithiolthiones (a group of compounds which have anti-cancer, antioxidant properties), indoles (substances which protect against breast cancer) and sulphur – which has antibiotics and antiviral characteristics. This family of vegetables also mildly stimulates the liver and other tissues out of stagnancy. Cabbage and its juice are particularly useful because they help clear mental depression.
CoQ10, or co-enzyme Q10, is a supplement similar to a vitamin. Studies in Denmark and the US on the effects of CoQ10 among 32 breast cancer patients found that only one patient suffered a recurrence and all are still alive. Patients continued to do well after two years of supplementation, and after three to five years, surprising improvements were reported in two patients who had had advanced disease at the beginning of the trial. Unfortunately, CoQ10 remains unproven as a cancer treatment.
8. Whole grains
Insoluble fibre from grains helps reduce the risk of breast cancer among young women. Fibre lowers oestrogen levels in pre-menopausal women but not in post-menopausal women. Phytate (an active component in fibre) and isoflavones (a type of plant oestrogen found in soy beans) provide protection in the absence of a decrease in oestrogen levels.
So start switching from white rice to brown rice or from bakery products made with white flour or mixed flours to 100% whole wheat bread, whole rye crackers and whole grain pancake mixes.
Food-prep methods matter
Do note that the way you prepare your food could directly impact your risks of contracting breast cancer. For example, well-done meat contains more cancer-causing materials than lightly-cooked meat. (Although genetic factors play a role in determining which women’s risk are increased).