Life Extension Magazine November 2007
Scientific Methods to Reduce Breast and Prostate Cancer Risk
By William Faloon
How Lignans Protect the Breast and Prostate Glands
A number of published studies indicate that dietary lignans may protect against cancer by favorably altering estrogen metabolism, inhibiting angiogenesis, and inducing cancer cells to self destruct.79-81 The greatest support for a role of lignans in cancer prevention has been shown for premenopausal breast cancer.
Researchers in New York assessed breast cancer risk and dietary lignan intake in more than 3,000 women, including about 1,100 patients with confirmed breast cancer and approximately 2,000 cancer-free women who served as controls. Using statistical analysis, the scientists determined that premenopausal women with the highest lignan intake had a 44% reduced risk of developing breast cancer.80
Scientists in Italy reported similar findings. Their research indicates that higher blood levels of enterolactone— the primary lignan derived by the body from flaxseed—are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Conversely, the researchers noted, “values of serum enterolactone were significantly lower in women who subsequently developed breast cancer,” leading them to conclude that the phytoestrogen enterolactone “had a strong protective effect on breast cancer risk.”81
Lignans may also protect against endometrial cancer, a condition associated with prolonged exposure to unopposed estrogens. Flax lignans may offer protection through an anti-estrogenic effect in the body. Researchers in California assessed lignan intake and cancer status among nearly 1,000 women in the San Francisco area and determined that women with the highest dietary lignan intake experienced the lowest risk of developing this carcinoma of the uterine lining. The relationship between lignans and endometrial cancer risk reduction was slightly stronger among postmenopausal women.
Based on a lot of favorable publicity, health-conscious people are increasingly adding flax seed to their diet for the purpose of obtaining the beneficial lignans. Highly concentrated lignan extracts are also appearing in supplements to support breast and prostate health.
Adding Up the Numbers
According to the scientific data discussed in this article, significant reductions (up to 90%) in breast cancer risk have been found based on the types of foods and supplements one consumes.25
Even further risk reductions occur in conjunction with lowered overall calorie intake. In fact, for each excess calorie we ingest (and most of us ingest plenty of excess calories), our risk for many types of cancer increases.26,82,83
In adding up these numbers, it becomes clear that there are many steps one can take to sharply reduce the risk of breast, prostate, and other cancers. An evaluation of how certain plant extracts favorably affect estrogen metabolism indicates that aging humans may be able to safely benefit from natural hormone balancing.
Is Fear of Cancer a Reason to Be Deprived of Hormones?
As women enter the menopausal years, they face a difficult decision. The body’s natural production of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and other critical hormones needed to maintain health and vigor rapidly declines.84 While individual effects of menopause vary widely, most women suffer because their glands no longer produce the hormones needed to regulate critical physiological processes. Depression, irritability, and short-term memory lapses are common menopausal complaints, along with hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia.85
Aging men suffer a host of disorders that range from unpleasant to lethal in response to testosterone deficiency and estrogen overload.86-92
Concern about cancer is the primary reason why men and women do not restore their hormones to more youthful levels. Like much of what we eat, estrogen and testosterone affect cell proliferation. Does that mean we should shrivel up, degenerate, and die from these sex hormone deficiencies we all face as a part of “normal” aging?
Based on the enormity of the data showing how people can sharply reduce their rate of cancer and favorably affect estrogen metabolism in a way that points to cancer prevention, it is difficult to buy into the argument that natural sex hormones should only be enjoyed by the young.
Large human population studies show huge reductions in cancer risk, along with specific protective mechanisms against estrogen’s negative pathways, when vitamin D, cruciferous vegetables (I3C), soy, D-glucarate, and lignans are consumed. Dramatic cancer rate reductions also occur when red meat, high-fat dairy, and other deleterious foods are reduced or eliminated from the diet.
Misconceptions generated by conflicting studies and media hype have created an environment in which aging people suffer the agonies and shortened life spans caused by sex hormone imbalances, yet do nothing to correct this due to fear of cancer. When one looks at what the real risk factors are, it would appear that altering one’s lifestyle at any age would result in significant cancer reductions, even in those who properly restore their hormone balance to reflect a more youthful range.
Remember the chart at the beginning of this article showing how breast cancer rates skyrocket as we age. During the younger years, when breast cancer is virtually non-existent, we enjoy high levels of youthful sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone). As hormone levels decline with age, breast and prostate cancer risks increase. We now know this happens because of the “accumulation of mutations in our genes that regulate cellular proliferation.” 2 The incredible news is that there are low-cost nutrients that are proven to favorably restore healthy gene function and reduce our risk of cancer in the process.
Just think, we have been told all our lives that there is nothing we can do about the genes we inherit from our parents that predispose us to certain diseases. Yet breakthrough research findings indicate that we can influence our genes to behave in a way that significantly reduces our risk of contracting common cancers. Additional scientific findings show how we can influence estrogen metabolism in our bodies so that it is protective against breast and other cancers.
Based on the enormity of this data, it would appear that aging humans can restore many of the hormones they need to sustain life—without encountering adverse effects.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Health Advisor at 1-800-226-2370.
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