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Breast Cancer on the Rise amongst South Asians

By Dr. Saira Gillani Email By Dr. Saira Gillani
December 2011
Breast Cancer on the Rise amongst South Asians Breast cancer is a non-communicable disease which has tripled in the South Asian American community in the last 10 years. Asian women have traditionally had low breast cancer rates. However, their rates are rapidly rising.

Researchers suspect that these rates have risen as immigrant women have adopted elements of a Western lifestyle. In India only one in 40 women get breast cancer, but in the United States one out of every eight Asian Indian women will get the disease, the highest incidence in the world. This is due to diet changes which add more preservatives; toxins; increases in age when having children; less exercise; and ozone changes. While they are less likely than women in any other major ethnic group to develop breast cancer, their breast cancer rate is the nation’s fastest-growing. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this occurrence.


Breast Cancer Prevention Tips:

      1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less risk for all cancers. The higher the level of antioxidants the better the benefits: try oranges, asparagus, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and papaya. In addition to being rich in antioxidants, fruits and vegetables also contain lots of fiber. Fiber binds to estrogen in the digestive tract so that levels in the blood are reduced.

      2. Exercise Regularly. Research shows that exercise will lower the levels of estrogen produced by the body, thereby reducing the risk of breast cancer. Use movements that involve the shoulders and build torso and upper arm strength. Caitlin Maska, Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer, suggests this will assist in the movement of lymphatic fluids in breast tissue, which is responsible for getting rid of waste matter from the breasts. Studies show that women who do aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day have a 20-40% lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who are inactive.

      3. Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that excess weight is a breast cancer risk factor. Being overweight or obese has a great impact on the hormones that increase a postmenopausal women’s risk of breast cancer, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

      4. Reduce fat. Some research indicates that a low-fat diet helps prevent breast cancer. Avoid saturated fat found in meat, butter or ghee, foods that contain full-cream milk (whole-milk dairy foods), and fatty acids in margarine. These fats may trigger breast cancer. The type of fat that helps prevent breast cancer is unsaturated fat found in olive oil, and omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other cold water fish. Also, have a diet high in whole grains, dal, seeds, nuts and beans.

      5. If you eat meat, do not overcook meats. The way you cook the meat will affect the risk of breast cancer. When meats are cooked, they produce carcinogenic compounds. The higher the temperature and the longer they are cooked, the more compound is formed. Do not char meats as the compounds become more harmful.

      6. Eliminate or limit alcohol consumption. Studies show people who drink two or more alcoholic beverages a day develop breast cancer at nearly twice the rate as those who drink no alcohol at all.

      7. Do not smoke or breathe in smoke. Women who smoke or are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke are up to 40% more likely to develop breast cancer. However, quitting rapidly improves your statistics.

      8. Take antioxidant supplements. Use supplements such as vitamins C, E, and B-complex as well as minerals that have been proven effective in the natural prevention of breast cancer. I also recommend chia seeds which are shown to add omega-3 and -6 and are a great source in controlling blood sugar levels. Also add herbs such as haldi (turmeric) to purify blood.

      9. Practice breast self-massage and exams. This is useful in natural prevention of breast cancer to flush toxins and other cancer-causing debris from the lymphatic system. And most importantly this may save your life.

Public awareness, healthier lifestyle, diet, exercise, and general breast awareness using appropriate technology may help in reducing the incidence and occurrence of breast cancer in our population.

[Dr. Saira Gillani is the Naturopathic doctor at Primacare Physical Therapy and Wellness in Gwinnett county. Her specialties include natural approaches to diabetes, weight management, arthritis, and stress management.]

[Gulshan Harjee, M.D., is a board certified internist in private practice with an emphasis on prevention. Please email your health and medical questions for consideration in this column to: gharjee@comcast.net. The material in this column is of a general nature, and must not be construed as specific medical advice. This column rotates monthly along with the Fitness Lifestyle column by Aarti Patel.]

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