Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer in the United States is
1) The most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity.
2) The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.
3) The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
After a twenty year increase in the incidence of breast cancer through the 1980’s and 1990’s, the incidence rates of breast cancer dropped sharply from 2002 to 2003 due to the abrupt decline in the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a result of the highly publicized link between the use of hormone therapy and an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
By changing what the medical community focused on, and impacting what was a standard in treatment of menopause a huge shift in breast cancer incidence was realized.
While there are unavoidable risk factors for breast cancer like being born female, carrying the BRCA gene and getting older, there are avoidable risks, like HRT was an avoidable risk.
The avoidable risk factors include:
• Hormone replacement therapy
• being overweight
• not exercising,
• choosing to smoke cigarettes
• making unhealthy food choices
• low levels of Vitamin D
• low levels of Iodine
While acknowledged in the medical community, these avoidable risk factors are not getting the attention that hormone replacement therapy avoidance obtained and yet two of these factors are some of the easiest to identify and rectify and involve monitoring Vitamin D and iodine levels.
Identifying if you are Vitamin D deficient.
Insurance will cover a Vitamin D test and, for patients without insurance this type of testing is done through our office for under $30.00 While 70% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient, 98% of woman with breast cancer are Vitamin D deficient. Sources of Vitamin D include the sun (15 minutes a day without sunscreen) and foods such as salmon, tuna, cod liver oil and Vitamin D fortified milk.
Women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer and women with breast cancer may be more responsive to their cancer treatment if their Vitamin D levels are normal.
Not only is Vitamin D an estrogen regulator, Vitamin D may also play a role in controlling normal breast cell growth and may be able to stop breast cancer cells from growing. If the normal level of Vitamin D is between 30 and 100 nanograms/milliliter (ng/ml) , the average level for women with breast cancer was found to be 17 in a study published this March by Cedric Garland in the journal titled Anticancer Research.
Any woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer should have her Vitamin D levels checked regularly (annually if normal, but if low, it should be checked every 3 months until normal, then every winter to ensure that it stays normal at the time of year it is prone to be lowest).
Identifying if you are Iodine deficient.
Insurance will cover an iodine test and, for patients without insurance this type of testing is done through our office for under $65.00
Iodine is a critical chemical element that our body can’t create so we must consume iodine in our food. Unfortunately, our North American foods do not generally contain iodine unless it is added when they are processed. In Japan, where the normal diet is seaweed rich, the risk of breast cancer is low although studies are finding that Japanese women have increased breast cancer rates when they emigrate to the west and start to consume our North American diet. Food sources of iodine include sea vegetables such as seaweed and kelp. seafood, dairy and eggs.
Physicians do not generally look at iodine levels for either thyroid function or breast health although research suggests it is critical for both. Physicians are still working under the mistaken assumption that the general population is getting adequate iodine from salt and grains. In recent years however, grains and salts are no longer processed to contain iodine and so there is a quiet epidemic of iodine deficiency occurring in Americans.
Iodine deficiency is believed to increase the risk of a variety of cancers including thyroid, breast, uterine and ovarian cancers and may predispose women to breast cancer due to its critical role in breast tissue health.
Iodine is so important for breast health, that the female body will steal iodine from the thyroid to keep levels high enough in breast tissue protecting breast tissue at the expense of thyroid function. With 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) developing invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, monitoring iodine is a simple way to reduce breast cancer risk.
In our clinic we are seeing almost 61% of our initial patient blood tests (through standardized outside lab testing) for iodine are low!
*Incidence counts cover about 99% of the U.S. population; death counts cover about 100% of the U.S. population. Use caution when comparing incidence and death counts.
†Source: U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2012 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2015.