Updated: Oct 27
There’s nothing scarier than hearing the phrase, “You have breast cancer.” In the United States, about 264,000 breast cancer cases in women and 2,400 cases in men are diagnosed annually (1). But what if there were steps that could be taken to decrease the risk of breast cancer?
Breast cancer is an illness in which cells in the breast grow uncontrollably. Different types of breast cancer can form in different parts of the breast and spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other body parts, it is said to have metastasized.
The two most common types of breast cancer include (2):
Invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread or metastasize to other body parts.
Invasive lobular carcinoma. Cancer cells begin in the lobules and then spread from the lobules to the breast tissues that are close by. These invasive cancer cells can also apply to other parts of the body.
Symptoms and warning signs of breast cancer include (3):
New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
Pain in any area of the breast
Mainstream companies spread awareness every October by plastering the pink awareness ribbon on all their products. They plaster this ribbon on all their products while forgetting one key fact: they contain carcinogenic ingredients – this is known as pinkwashing.
Pinkwashing is the deceitful vision of a company supporting breast cancer awareness on their cancer-causing products. Examples of pinkwashing may be pink ribbons on processed foods and fragrance companies. While these companies claim to support breast cancer awareness, they’re profiting from the cause they’re creating.
The following brands have been recognized for pinkwashing:
Susan G. Komen
Ford Motor Company
The American Cancer Society
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Personal Care Products Council
The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Don’t be fooled by their deceitful tactics. Their products do nothing to support or prevent breast cancer, but there are steps you can take to reduce your breast cancer risk...
#1 Limit/Avoid Ionizing Radiation
Surprise, surprise–radiation is on this list. Research has found that ionizing radiation exposure is linked to breast cancer with doses as low as about 100 millisieverts (mSv). Of course, age at the time of exposure is a consistent modifier of the radiation-related breast cancer risk. The highest risk was seen for girls exposed before the age of 20 years, and zero to minimal risk was detected for women exposed after menopausal ages (4).
Interestingly, mammograms are the mainstream’s first line of defense for early breast cancer detection. The average radiation dose for a typical mammogram with 2 views of each breast is about 0.4 mSv (5). Although some sources claim ionizing radiation doesn’t build up in the body, they do, and the effects remain in the body for life (6). Radiation buildup is problematic when considering mainstream health resources like the Mayo Clinic recommends most people have annual mammograms (7).
Other risks associated with ionizing radiation exposure (8):
Temporary hair loss
Skin death and scarring
Mucosa lining loss
Reduction of blood cell production
You may be wondering if there’s an alternative to mammograms, and thankfully, there is – thermography.
Thermography is a non-invasive test that uses an infrared camera to detect changes in heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues. This test can be used to detect breast cancer without radiation exposure, discomfort, or pain to the recipient. The best part about thermography is a physical tumor doesn’t need to be present, like with a mammogram. Thermography sees heat production caused by increased blood vessel circulation and metabolic changes to detect tumors before they’ve had time to grow (10).
Additionally, you should be conducting self-breast exams monthly. According to the Nation Breast Cancer Foundation, there are three ways to perform a self-exam (11):
In the shower, use the bottom of your three middle fingers to check for changes. Using light, medium, and firm pressure, check the breast and armpit area. Check for lumps, thickenings, hardened knots, and other changes.
In front of the mirror, with your arms at your sides, visually inspect your breasts for changes. Look for changes in the color and shape of the breast. Check for dimpling, swelling, and other skin irregularities on or around the breast or nipple. Now, with your hands on your hips and your chest flexed, examine your breasts again for the same types of changes.
Lying down on your back will cause the breast tissue to spread out evenly. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and stretch your right arm behind your head. Use the bottom of your three middle fingers to check for changes. Using light, medium, and firm pressure, check the breast and armpit area. Check for lumps, thickenings, hardened knots, and other changes. Follow the same steps for the left side.
#2 Maintain A Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge for most people in the U.S., with more than 70% of American adults being overweight (12). Being overweight can contribute to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and, of course, breast cancer (13). The connection between weight and breast cancer risk is complicated.
For women especially, being overweight or obese after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer. Having more fat tissue can increase the chance of getting breast cancer due to increased estrogen levels (14). Additionally, overweight women tend to have higher insulin levels (even in the absence of diabetes), which is also linked to some cancers, including breast cancer (15).
Of course, weight loss can be a struggle for many reasons. My first suggestion is to be physically active. Although physical activity may not directly influence weight loss (especially if struggling with gut or hormone imbalances), it’s still a key factor to help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Evidence has linked physical activity to lower cancer risk outcomes. Observational studies have followed individuals for years and found physically active women have lower breast cancer risks than inactive women, some by 21% (16). These findings have been confirmed in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women (17). Additional findings show that increased physical activity in postmenopausal women resulted in lower risks of breast cancer (18,19).
You may be wondering how much exercise is needed for these benefits. According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, released in 2018, they recommend that for substantial health benefits and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, adults engage in (20):
150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 to 100 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of each intensity each week. This physical activity can be done in episodes of any length.
Muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.
Balance training, in addition to aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
In other words, a 30-minute walk every day is sufficient, especially if there are inclines. I try to do this and always bring my dog along so we both receive the amazing benefits of daily exercise.
#3 Minimize Life Stressors
Studies have revealed a possible association between stress and cancer, especially stressful life events (21). Chronic exposure to stress has been linked to negative changes in body homeostasis. Stress is an imminent risk factor with a documented negative impact on the neuroendocrine and immune systems (22).
Although avoiding stress can be difficult, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact of stressful moments. My first recommendation is meditation.
If you read my blog, 10 Reasons to Meditate for Self-Care, you know meditation is a set of techniques designed to train the mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. When mindful meditation is done correctly, it leads to a heightened state of awareness and consciousness with many positive impacts on your health and overall well-being (24).
Other benefits of meditation include:
Promotes emotional health
Lengthens attention span
May reduce age-related memory loss
It may help fight addictions
Helps control pain
Can decrease blood pressure
According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation,
“In our studies with women with breast cancer, we found that mindfulness reduces stress and depression and that’s great, but it also increases positive feelings. It increases self-kindness and feelings of peace and meaning in life. It turns out that positive emotions are linked to beneficial changes in the immune system and may be even more important for immunity than negative emotions like stress and depression (23).”
All these things add up and create additional stress. Practicing mindful meditation can help alleviate stress, promote overall wellness, and possibly decrease the risk of breast cancer.
My second recommendation is yoga.
Yoga is a form of Ancient Indian philosophy that can aid in spirituality as your mind and body become one by combining physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation. If you read my blog, 10 Yoga Poses for Mental Health, you know yoga is a stress outlet that’s great for mental health and a way to exercise and boost heart health. It’s said that practicing yoga may help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood glucose levels (24).
Although there isn’t much about yoga and breast cancer, Breastcancer.org says,
“In studies of women with breast cancer, yoga has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve quality of sleep, physical vitality, and overall quality of life (25).”
Even if yoga doesn’t directly lower the risk of breast cancer, it’s a physical activity that relieves stress, knocking two things off this list of tips to reduce breast cancer risk.
#4 Get Adequate Sleep
Nothing’s more stressful than getting insufficient sleep. We become irritable as the exhaustion kicks in, not to mention lack of sleep can increase the risk of breast cancer. Studies indicate sleep behaviors like duration and quality can influence the risk of developing aggressive tumor characteristics, especially in postmenopausal women (26). Of course, there’s plenty at risk when you’re getting inadequate sleep, but the benefits of sleep include (27):
Getting sick less often
Staying at a healthy weight
Lowering your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
Reducing stress and improving your mood
Thinking more clearly and doing better at school or work
Getting along better with people
Making good decisions and avoiding injuries
Remember: no sleep means no energy to maintain physical activity, which makes #2 on this list impossible. So, if sleep is something you struggle with, I’d recommend Earthley’s educational guide, The Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep, which I co-wrote. This guide uncovers the link between key nutrients and sleep and is packed with facts on balancing these nutrients to improve sleep quality without supplements such as melatonin. To learn more about melatonin, check out my blog, The Truth About Melatonin.
#5 Avoid Mainstream Deodorant
If you read my blog, The Truth About Mainstream Deodorant, you know a study conducted in 2012 showed that 99% of breast cancer samples contained parabens, a common carcinogenic ingredient in most deodorants and antiperspirants (28). In another study, researchers tested samples from 17 breast cancer patients who underwent mastectomies and found that women who used antiperspirants had aluminum deposits in their outer breast tissue (29).
Additionally, some research suggests that deodorants containing aluminum (which is frequently applied and remains on the skin close to the breast) may be absorbed by the skin and affect estrogen (30). Estrogen can encourage the growth of breast cancer cells, and some scientists have said that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants could contribute to the development of breast cancer. In addition, it has been implied that aluminum may have direct activity in breast tissue (31).
Ironically, many organizations that are dedicated to "finding a cure" have spread false information regarding the link between antiperspirants and breast cancer – their version of pinkwashing. I think it's safe to assume that mainstream deodorant and moisture strips in razors can play a role in breast cancer development.
Avoiding mainstream deodorant is easy; you can make your own or use an all-natural brand. I use and highly recommend Earthley's Mineral Deodorant and Mineral PLUS Deodorant. Full disclosure: it did take me a while to figure out which scent worked best for me. As for razor alternatives, I use and recommend Leaf Shave.
If you’ve used mainstream deodorant in the past, I highly recommend detoxing your armpits. An underarm detox may reduce the amount of aluminum that reaches the outer breast tissue. You can try Earthley’s Detoxifying Pit Mask, which is just the thing for helping you transition from chemical antiperspirant to natural deodorant. It can also help those random times you feel a bit more odorous than usual, like during the postpartum stages. Let’s be real: the underarm area is a detox pathway, so realistically, we should all be detoxing our armpits regularly.
⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.