Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Decreasing Your Daughter's Risk of Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.   For an increasing number of people, this disease hits close to home.  For me, both my mother and aunt are breast cancer survivors. Today, it seems, almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by this disease and thus it is one of the things that most scares women today... all women.

And with good reason.  One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.

What causes breast cancer? For the most part this is still unknown.  Genetics account for  5 -10% of all breast cancers, but then there are the other 90% .  Leading the pack among the other culprits are environmental factors, including some of the most common chemical we are exposed to on a daily basis through food, air, beauty products, fragrance, plastics etc.

Scary stuff.. But it is refreshing and empowering to know that there are things you can do to lower your risk for breast cancer.  Even better news? That we, as mothers, can help decrease our daughter's risk of developing breast cancer, while in turn automatically helping ourselves out too.

First understand.....

The way by which certain chemicals influence a persons risk of developing breast cancer is tied to their lifetime estrogen levels.  The longer you have estrogen in your body, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer.

Today, girls are hitting puberty at a younger age, exposing them to surges in estrogen  from 3 to 7 years earlier than was previously the case.  This shift in age has been linked to, in part, higher breast cancer risk later in life.

A key way to protect your daughters comes down to decreasing their exposure to estrogen mimicking chemicals from the moment of conception and throughout childhood. 

If excess estrogen is linked to breast cancer, then it makes sense to avoid chemicals that trick our bodies into thinking they are estrogen, ie: estrogen mimicking chemicals.

Which are the most common and potentially harmful estrogen mimicking chemicals and where are they found?

WHO:  Used to make plastics more flexible and resilient.  Also used to bind fragrance to products

WHAT:  A 2012 study  found that certain breast cancer cells exposed to phthalates increased proliferation, migration, invasion and tumor formation.

WHERE: Found in everything from processed food packaging and shower curtains to detergents, toys and beauty products like nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, deodorants, and fragrances.

  • Look for products that are labeled as “fragrance free” (especially beauty products and cleaners) or “phthalate free”
  • Avoid artificial air fresheners
  • Avoid fabric softeners
  • If it smells like plastic throw it out. If you can’t, let it air out.
  • If it smells floral or fruity read the label.  if you cant pronounce the ingredients don’t use it.
WHO:  Bisphenol A, or BPA, is  commonly used in hard plastics, food and formula can linings  and thermal store receipts.

WHAT:   A recent study found that breast tissue development in monkeys exposed prenatally to BPA was more advanced compared to breast tissue development in those not exposed to BPA, a finding that could be linked to increased breast cancer risk later in life.

WHERE : Over 90 percent of people in the US are estimated to have BPA in their bodies. Traces have also been found in breast milk and the blood of pregnant women.  BPA has been found in the umbilical cord blood of 90 percent of newborn infants tested


  • Avoid plastics with a 7 on the bottom recycling triangle
  • Avoid eating canned foods
  • When possible switch from plastics to glass or stainless steel (drinking bottles, food containers etc)
  • Never heat plastics in the microwave
  • Avoid liquid formula that comes in BPA lined cans.  Choose powder versions instead
  • Try glass baby bottles to feed you infants, if not look for “BPA free” labels.

WHO: Parabens are used as preservatives that stop the growth of bacteria, yeast, and molds.

WHAT:  A March 2012 study detected the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled

WHERE: Deodorants and antiperspirants are some of the primary sources of parabens, as are cosmetics,  face creams and shampoos.

  • Understand that whatever you spread on your skin can be absorbed into your body and affect your unborn child and yourself over time.
  • During pregnancy (and when your baby is an infant) less is more.  Try to use only the minimal cosmetic and beauty products necessary.
  • Many adult and baby products are now available and labelled as “paraben free”.    If they are present look for and try to avoid products that list ingredients that end in paraben (ie:  methylparaben, propulparaben etc)...

WHO: The star of antibacterial products:  it is found in just about every antimicrobial product you have every used (and probably use on a daily basis). 

WHAT:  A 2012 study found that “Treatments of MCF-7 breast cancer cells with OP and triclosan resulted in the stimulation of their cell growth”

Everything from soaps, to handwash, to toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash and even school supplies and clothes can have triclosan.

  • Antibacterial products with triclosan will be labeled as such, so read your labels and choose natural antibacterial ingredients.  
  • We know that pregnant women have to be careful with germs and that children seem to be a magnet for them, so opt for washing hands frequently with plain soap and water and foregoing the antibacterial gels.