DIET & BREAST CANCER
Soya foods and other phyto-oestrogens Phyto-oestrogens are chemicals which are found in plant foods (phyto means 'plant'). They are similar in structure to the female sex hormone oestrogen. There are different types of Phyto-oestrogens. Some are found in soya bean products. Others are found in the fibre of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and flax seed, linseeds. Milk may also contain Phyto-oestrogens, but this depends on what the cows have been eating! Some early research has suggested that women whose diets are high in Phyto-oestrogens have a lower risk of breast cancer. In some studies eating Phyto-oestrogens (soya flour and linseed supplements) regularly over several weeks reduced oestrogen levels. There are some now commercially available which contain phto-oestrogens. For more information on phytoestrogens see "Your Health in Your Hands" . The HRT cake has been designed to carry ingredients with high phyto-oestrogen levels and therefore may be helpful for hot flushes and preventing breast cancer.
Calories, obesity and breast cancer Obese women are more likely to get breast cancer. 'Obese' means more than 40% overweight. We do not know exactly why this is, although there are some theories-- Populations of women at higher risk of getting breast cancer are often found to have higher oestrogen levels than populations with lower breast cancer risk. After the menopause, oestrogen is converted into its active form in the body fat. So obese postmenopausal women could have higher oestrogen levels and so have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Food additives Many things come under the general heading of food additives including preservatives, saccharine and curatives (used to make bacon, ham and corned beef. There is no research to suggest that food additives are a risk factor for breast cancer. Most food additives actually help reduce the risk of cancer by stopping food going moldy for example. There has been concern about saccharine in the past. But it has not been shown to cause cancers in people, only in laboratory animals. Even so, in the food industry other sweeteners have mostly replaced it.
Pesticides Pesticides have been linked to breast cancer, Lindane for example. Lindane is widely used in some areas of the UK where there is a lot of farming such as Lincolnshire. Some environmental groups have linked high local rates of breast cancer with Lindane use. But there is not much scientific evidence to link the two as yet. What there is, is very contradictory. It is a good idea to wash all fruit and vegetables before use so that you remove any pesticides that are left on the skin.
Alcohol and breast cancer Alcohol is known to increase the risk of some cancers. Some research studies show that drinking a lot can increase risk of breast cancer. Other research studies don't show such a risk. There are a few researchers and breast cancer doctors who are convinced that drinking does increase risk even though they don't really have the evidence to prove it. Others think it may when combined with other factors such as using hormone replacement therapy. Basically we don't know. But too much alcohol has so many other bad effects on our health and welfare that it is sensible not to drink too much. There is no evidence that low levels of alcohol consumption are harmful, however.