Susan Whedbee, LCSW, NCPsyA
Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist, NYC
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A Rise in Breast Cancer – Isn’t it Time for Women to Fight Back?

In his October 6, 2017 New York Times article, “Researchers Predict a Quarter-Million New Cases of Breast Cancer in the U.S.”, Nicholas Bakalar tells us that researchers at the American Cancer Society estimate that there will be at least 250,000 new cases of breast cancer reported in the U.S. with one in every eight women receiving this diagnosis. He goes on to tell us that triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of breast cancer, will be twice as common in black women as in white women.

Although Bakalar has provided predictions for women developing this disease and has also informed us that early screenings may reduce death, nothing was mentioned about preventing the disease in the first place.

A life-style change such as focusing on diet and exercise may be the best first step to lower the risk of fueling growth hormone-dependency cancers such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. To be clear, when we eat animal sourced food we raise what is called Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) which puts us at a higher risk of developing a number of breast and other cancers. And when we eat dairy, IGF-1 is actually in the dairy itself raising our risk even more.

plant based diet

In his September 28, 2012 lecture entitled: “How Plant-Based to Lower IGF-1”, Michael Greger, M.D.(1)  illustrates that just by simply walking and eating whole healthy plant foods for a few days, our IGF-1 can drop low enough to reverse cancer cell growth. And if we stick with it, for at least 14 years, we have half the IGF-1 in our bodies than those on the Standard American Diet putting us at lower risk for developing breast and hormone-dependency cancers.

We ought not to lose sight of the fact that Japanese women have had far fewer breast cancer events than women in the West. Their diet traditionally consisted of a whole food plant-based diet with no dairy, and perhaps a little fish used more as a garnish/flavoring. The same thing is true for people in rural China eating a predominately plant-based diet – they, too, have had very little if no incidences of breast cancer and other Western diseases. When, however, they migrated to other countries and began to consume the Standard Western Diet they became susceptible to the same diseases that are seen in Western cultures. Don’t forget the old adage: You are what you eat.

But “where do I get my protein “ is a cry I often hear. Rest assured if you are eating a whole food plant-based diet, you will be getting all the protein you will ever need. Conversely, if your protein comes from animal sourced foods, you will be taking in far too much protein and putting yourself at a higher risk of developing breast and other cancers as your IGF-1 increases.

The other question I hear is: “What if I already have the cancer gene such as triple-negative breast cancer, will a plant-based diet actually help?” The answer is a resounding yes! Although the gene may have already been initiated, it has to be promoted in order to develop the disease. Think of grass seeds. They are there but will never grow unless they are watered – maybe it is time to turn off the sprinklers and focus on a healthy life-style change. Feeling great and looking wonderful can be an extremely powerful motivator!