Billions of dollars are spent on cancer research each year in the United States. In 2012, more than US$600 million was spent on research for breast cancer, which is more than double the money spent on lung cancer research.
Treatment, diagnosis and genetics takes up the majority of funding in breast cancer research. Treatment involves some of the latest and most costly research, including stem cell therapies, nanotechnology, antibodies, drugs and chemotherapy.
What is given very little attention and research funding, comparatively, is prevention. For many, this would seem counter-intuitive. It seems very logical, that the best use of research investment should go to prevention. After all, while treatments may be sometimes effective, patients still have to live with the disease and undergo invasive and sickening treatment regimes.
Luckily, there is some research being completed on prevention. And you won’t have to go far to find the source of some of the best preventative measures for breast cancer, they are at your local green grocer.
Famed for its ability to ward off vampires and potential partners who don’t appreciate the strong scent, garlic, has far more to offer. Lipid and water-soluble, allyl sulfur compounds assist the body in banishing carcinogens and aid in the destruction of cancerous cells. Add to that the well-known boost garlic gives to the immune system and as a caner-inhibitor, garlic has the right mix.
“A French study of 345 women highlighted the role diet can play in combatting breast cancer. The conclusion showed that the increased consumption of garlic, and onions (of the same family) reduced the risk of breast cancer. Other research has shown that fresh garlic stopped the growth of the breast cancer cell MCF7.”
The more fresh garlic you can incorporate into your diet, the better. Use it in cooking, or, if you are game, try eating some cloves by themselves.
Cruciferous vegetables, most notably broccoli, but also Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, collards, turnips, watercress, bok choy, and cabbage, are all packed with phytochemicals that can help to prevent cancer.
It is the large amounts of glucosinolates that are the main shield. The glucosinolates break down in your stomach, also a sulfur carrying compound, the process turns them into cancer-combatting isothiocyanates. These function by eradicating carcinogens from the body and increasing tumor-suppressive proteins.
The Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) molecule is derived from glucosinolate. The IC3 particles combine in the stomach to form a number of different products. One of these is 3,3-diindolylmethane (DIM), which research shows stunts the growth of cancer cells in breasts due to the high levels of anti-proliferative action.
Once again, these vegetables are at their most beneficial when raw and fresh, so avoid cooking, if possible.
Turmeric is a spice of the ginger family, with a distinctive yellow colour coming from curcuminoids, of which curcumin is the most prevalent.
“Curcumin is already widely used as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The natural phenols have also been shown to enhance the prevention of oral, colorectal and some stomach cancers. Early research also shows that curcumin can impede the development of breast cancer cells.”
The breast cancer cell known as MCF7 was again targeted in research. The production of MCF7 was inhibited by doses of curcumin. A separate study has also demonstrated that curcumin can reduce tumor angiogenesis – the process of new blood vessels forming from existing vessels, which helps the tumor to grow.
Tumeric can be used in many dishes, added as a spice.
One of the most versatile vegetables, used in sauces, juices and cocktails – eaten whole, fresh and cooked, tomatoes also comes packed with lycopene, a potent antioxidant.
The Lycopene carotenoid, responsible for a tomatoes’ red colour, have powerful attributes that helps it to fight cancer. The use of lycopene is already established in the prevention of prostate cancer, its role in preventing breast cancer is starting to come to the fore.
A synthesis work, which examined eight separate pieces of research studies, looked for correlations between carotenoids circulating in the blood steam and the risk of breast cancer. There was a substantial decrease in risk, especially in negative estrogen-receptor tumors, which usually has a poor prognosis.
The research involved 3,055 breast cancer patients and group of 3,956 controls. The women were divided into four groups based on the levels of carotenoids in their bloodstream. The results showed that the group of women with the highest levels had a risk of developing breast cancer that was 19 per cent lower than the women with the lower levels.
Of the different carotenoids used in the study, Lycopene looked to be the most effective, decreasing risk by 22 percent. Other carotenoids like lutein/zeaxanthin, alpha carotene and beta carrotine were also effective, only beta kryptoxanthin did not produce a discernable reduction in risk.
Lycopene is most readily absorbed by the body when tomatoes are cooked or processed, like in a sauce. Bringing all the four ingredient together, would make a cancer fighting super tomato-based sauce, with fresh garlic, onion, blanched broccoli and a touch of turmeric.