There is no established breast cancer prevention agent that is non-toxic and could be provided to all women at minimum or no risk.  Current breast cancer prevention strategies for high risk women include prophylactic mastectomy and drugs such as Tamoxifen and Evista.  None of these expensive methods is desirable for patients: mastectomy is obviously disfiguring and traumatic, and long-term (five years) drug administration involves serious side effects.  Therefore, it is crucial that alternative methods to prevent breast cancer or reduce risk are identified.

Inmy view, botanical dietary supplements derived from green tea extracts represent a potentially widely available method for reducing the risk of breast cancer.  Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, and its ingestion in reasonable doses is considered safe.  Many population observation reports have shown that green tea may decrease the risk of breast cancer.  I  have studied green tea and provided scientific evidence that green tea extract indeed inhibits breast cancer growth.

 

 

GREEN TEA

Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, and its ingestion in reasonable doses is considered safe.  Many epidemiological studies have shown that green tea may decrease the risk of cancer.  A distinction should be made between green tea and black tea.  Most reports showing positive cancer preventive effects are from studies on Asians who drink predominantly green tea, whereas studies on black tea drinking Europeans observe protective effects infrequently.  The cancer preventive effect of green tea is observed in pancreatic, colon and rectal cancers.  Stomach cancer has been studied with mixed results, but it appears that high consumption of tea at moderate temperature is beneficial.  Green tea has been observed to decrease the risk of esophageal cancer.  Furthermore, there are reports linking the consumption of green tea with an improved prognosis in breast cancer

Since cancer results from a gene-environment interaction, elements in the diet have been implicated in cancer causation and the progression of established tumors.  Flavonoids found in green tea are among the dietary factors that may play a role in cancer protection, and have been shown to have potent antioxidant and anti-tumor effects.  Many investigators have uncovered multiple other effects of green tea.  Studies have shown that green tea exerts antioxidant activity as well as expand the activity of antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes.  Tea polyphenols bind to metal ions, preventing them from participating in peroxidase reactions, and scavenge reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, reducing their damage to lipid membranes, proteins, and nucleic acids.

Green tea has been shown to block certain steps of carcinogenesis.  It blocks cell membrane receptors, thereby inhibiting cancer cell growth.  Green tea also represses the catalytic activity of several cytochrome P-450 enzymes, which may be involved in cancer initiation.  Furthermore, green tea blocks nitrosamines and inhibits estrogen receptor interaction in mammary cancer cell lines.  The androgen receptor in prostate cancer is also affected by green tea.  Green tea also reduces the proliferation and induces programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer.  A study has shown that green tea up-regulates tumor suppressor genes.  Other effects include suppression of malignant activities such as kinases (like Her-2 in breast cancer), and angiogenesis (tumor blood vessel proliferation to enable size enlargement).

In our opinion, drinking green tea or taking botanical dietary supplements derived from green tea represent a widely available method for potentially reducing the risk of many cancers.

 

 

SOY

Asians have a lower incidence of breast cancer than Americans.  However, Asians migrating to the United States have almost the same risk of breast cancer as American-born females.  In addition, the age-adjusted death rates from breast cancer are 2-8 fold less in Asian countries than in the United States and Western Europe.  This difference in breast cancer mortality has been correlated with differences in dietary patterns.  In some Asian countries, women consume an average of 20-50 times more soy products per capita than American women.  Therefore, it has been believed that the lifetime consumption of soy is beneficial.  However, a few years ago, some rodent experiments showed that soy increases breast tumor growth implanted in the animals.  This made many women worry.  But rats and mice metabolize soy differently than humans.  It is well known in the drug development world that medications sometimes can have opposite effects in rodents than in people.  Therefore, it is important to look at human data.

Overall, the epidemiologic evidence supporting the idea that high soy consumption protects against breast cancer is favorable, although inconsistent.  The majority of studies show that regular soyfood consumption reduces the risk of breast cancer.  Yet, others report that high soy intake is associated with a lower breast cancer risk in premenopausal but not postmenopausal women.  A few published reports suggest that soy consumption is not associated with any difference in breast cancer incidence.  It should be noted that we have not found any human study reporting that soy increases breast cancer risk.

In patients who had breast cancer in the past, the conclusion of multiple epidemiologic studies indicates that soy does not make prognosis worse.  Some subgroups of women with soy consumption actually had better outcome.  In Asian breast cancer survivors, postmenopausal women with high soy intake had lower risk of tumor recurrence or death compared to those with low soy.  This finding has also been reported in Caucasian women.

In our opinion, soy is safe.  High soy consumption probably does help prevent breast cancer.  In regards to patients who already had breast cancer, soy is not harmful, but may be beneficial.

 

 

Fish oil – a “natural” way to cardiovascular health.

Japanese people consume a lot of fish and seaweed, and are known for their longevity.  For cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week.  Patients with heart disease or risk factors may need to eat more.  Fish oil may help to lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, slow the development of plaque in the arteries, reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack stroke.   Some people do not like to eat fish, and therefore should take fish oil supplements.  It is not clear if these supplements would further help if someone is already eating a lot of fish.

Human studies have not shown that fish oil supplements decrease heart attacks and/or strokes in people with heart disease or at risk for heart disease, nor in healthy people.  However, patients in these studies are already taking heart medications and/or eat fish.  A report from 2013 shows that generally healthy elderly people with high omega-3 blood levels live a few years longer, and are less likely to die from heart attack or arrhythmia (http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1671714).  Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory actions, and may reduce rheumatoid arthritis.  Fish oil supplement has been associated with a decrease in breast cancer risk (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/19/7/1696.abstract).  There are some suggestive reports that fish oil increases cognitive function and memory.  It is possible that fish oil may help with retinal disease, dry eye, depression, and anxiety.

A problem with fish oil supplements is that some brands may even contain toxins, such as lead, PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxin, and signs of decomposition.  ConsumerLab (https://www.consumerlab.com) is a company that does independent testing on fish oil supplements commonly available.  For a fee, you can obtain the company’s results to help you decide which brand to buy.  Mercury is not found in these supplements, but can be detected in fish meat.  Mercury level is higher in shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and albacore white tuna.

Fish oil has a blood thinning effect, and should be stopped for a week before surgery.  This supplement can also lower blood pressure.  Therefore, you should let your doctor know that you are taking this supplement, so that other medications are adjusted appropriately.

 

 

Red yeast rice – a “natural” way to lower cholesterol.

Red yeast rice has been used in China for over 1,000 years.  Fermentation of rice with the yeast Monascus purpureus produces red yeast rice.  It contains compounds that block cholesterol absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.  Furthermore, red yeast rice reduces the body’s cholesterol synthesis in the liver.  Several studies have shown that red yeast rice is effective.  Dr. David Heber (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/2/231.full) conducted a trial on 83 patients with an abnormal lipid profile.  Subjects were given red yeast rice or placebo pills.  After two months of this regimen,  people taking red yeast rice had significantly decreased levels of total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein, bad cholesterol) and total triacylglycerol.  HDL (high-density lipoprotein, good cholesterol) did not change.

Separately, Dr. David Becker (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2008, http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(11)60914) treated 62 patients who could not tolerate statin drugs due to the muscle pain side effect.  One group took red yeast rice, and the other placebo pills.  Measurements were taken at three months and six months.  Patients on red yeast rice had lower total cholesterol and LDL.  There was no effect on triglycerides or HDL levels.

To determine if red yeast rice can reduce cardiovascular events, Dr. Zongliang Lu (American Journal of Cardiology, 2008, http://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(08)00353-6/abstract) performed a multi-year study in 5,000 Chinese patients after a heart attack.  Total cholesterol and LDL levels declined.  Patients given red yeast rice had fewer repeat heart attacks, deaths, and less need for angioplasty or cardiac surgery,

A problem with over-the-counter red yeast rice products is that there is no consistent amount of “statin” like compound.  Some brands may even contain toxins such as citrinin.  This substance is made by yeast or fungi grown on the rice.  Citrinin has been shown to damage kidneys in animals; its effect on humans is unknown.  ConsumerLab (https://www.consumerlab.com) is a company that does independent testing on red yeast rice products commonly available.  For a fee, you can obtain the company’s results to help you decide which brand to buy.

Abnormally high cholesterol and lipid level is a medical condition that should be treated by a physician.  Red yeast rice tends to cause less muscle pain than well known “statin” drugs, but it likely is less effective than prescription drugs.  Red yeast rice does have interactions with certain medications, grapefruit juice and St. John’s wort.  It should be avoided in patients with liver disease, pregnant or breastfeeding women.  Therefore, you should discuss with your doctor before taking this supplement, instead of a prescription “statin” drug.

 

 

Resveratrol – an “anti-aging” supplement

Resveratrol is found in red wine, purple grape juice, red grape skin and grape seeds.  Usually, supplement manufacturers use the root of the Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) as a source of resveratrol.

Laboratory experiments on resveratrol revealed anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer activity.  Mice fed resveratrol were shown to live 15% longer.  In March 2013,  David Sinclair, Harvard Medical School professor of genetics, showed that resveratrol stimulates production of SIRT1, which blocks diseases by speeding up the cell’s energy production centers known as mitrochondria.

There have been a few publications on human use of resveratrol.  A study from Europe demonstrated that 30 days of resveratrol supplementation induces metabolic changes in eleven obese men, mimicking the effects of calorie restriction (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S155041311100386X).  The men had decreased blood pressure and triglycerides, as well as improved liver function and insulin sensitivity.

A study from India with 3-month administration of resveratrol to 62 diabetic patients reported improved control of diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol level (http://www.nrjournal.com/article/S0271-5317(12)00120-0/abstract).

A study from Spain (Tomé-Carneiro, June 2013, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043661813000601) reports that one-year supplementation with resveratrol results in beneficial immunomodulatory effects in diabetic and hypertensive patients with coronary artery disease.

However, a recent 8-week study on 27 healthy, physically inactive men around 65 years old found that exercise training is highly effective in improving cardiovascular health parameters, but resveratrol lessens the positive effects of training on several endpoints including blood pressure, plasma lipid concentrations and maximal oxygen uptake ( http://jp.physoc.org/content/early/2013/07/19/jphysiol.2013.258061.abstract).

Currently, there are multiple human clinical trials in the United States to assess the potential benefits of resveratrol supplementation.  The US National Institute of Health website (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov) lists 75 such trials.  Hopefully in the next few years, more information will be available about long term use of resveratrol in people.  Resveratrol has blood thinning capacity, and may also interact with prescription medications.  Therefore, you should discuss with your doctor before taking this supplement.  It has some estrogenic characteristic, and thus should not be taken by breast cancer patients.  Due to its anti-growth activity, resveratrol should be avoided in children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or women trying to conceive.

 

 

How to live long and look good

Stay out of the sun.  These UV rays cause premature wrinkles, as well as skin cancer.  If you go outdoors, you should wear sunscreen as well as a hat and long sleeve shirts and long skirts or pants.  The sun is most harsh at mid-day, so try to stand in the shade as much as possible.  For skin care, moisturizers are very important.  For the face, Retin A cream has been shown to reduce wrinkles and is safe.

Now, let’s go deeper than the skin.  You are (inside) what you eat.  Researchers have published that vegetarians live longer and healthier lives.  Yes, what your Mom told you about eating fruits and vegetables is true.  For those carnivores (like me), we should eat less red meat (try fish, chicken, turkey, etc.).  Furthermore, we should just eat less, overall.  Many rodent experiments have demonstrated that adult animals who consume less calories live longer.  It is a harsh fact that as we age, we must eat less (or exercise more) to just stay at the same weight.  I think that it’s fine to get a little help from supplements.  My personal favorites are resveratrol, fish oil, and green tea.

Of course, common sense dictates that we must not abuse our bodies.  Tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs will definitely result in premature aging.  One drink a week is probably OK.  Sitting around all day all week is also bad.  We must exercise on a regular basis.  If you cannot run, then walk.  If you do not walk, then stand.  Anything you can do standing up is better than doing it sitting down.  Taking care of our bodies also means that we need to see our doctors to do the routine check up and screening, so that any disease can be discovered early when it is still curable.  In general, any disease is easier to treat at an earlier stage.  More advanced diseases need more aggressive treatments, and both the diseases as well as their therapies will age you!  Just ask anybody on chemotherapy.

Then we need to spend some time on our spiritual health.  Peace of mind does wonder for the body’s functions, such as blood pressure, glucose level, etc.  A kind and forgiving nature makes the facial features pleasing to look at (it’s hard to frown when you feel love for the people around you).  Knowing the meaning of your life helps you cope with adversities.  Like Buddha said, life is suffering.  Happiness can be out of reach for many of us.  But we have the power to feel content and grateful, and we can choose to contribute to goodness and turn away from evil.

The natural outcome of human life is, unfortunately, death.  Nobody lives forever.  Medical and surgical advancements have prolonged life.  We want to live long, but we do not necessarily want to live many years with debility, dementia, and decay.  We need to consciously devote effort in anti-aging actions that would most contribute to a healthy life.

 

 

OBESITY 

I saw a news report about obesity rates in the USA.  As a society we are not getting thinner.  Just the opposite.  Mississippi apparently takes the prize as having the highest obesity rate at 35.4% with West Virginia (34.4%) and Delaware (34.3%) not on their trail.  California (23.6%) and New York (24%) fall in the lower quartile while Montana (19.6%) overtook Colorado (20.4%) this past year in having the lowest rate.  I wonder if it has anything to do with marijuana being made legal and the so-called “munchies?”

 

It’s been well reported that obesity can lead to serious health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.  But did you know that numerous studies have been published linking obesity and sedentary lifestyles with higher rates of a variety of Cancers?  Studies have demonstrated that individuals who exercise frequently – 30 minutes/day most days of the week lower their risk of cancer.  Even people who are obese can lower their risk of cancer by exercising and maintaining and active lifestyle.

While it’s certainly difficult for many people to exercise everyday, beneficial effects on health can be achieved by exercising less frequently but more vigorously e.g. 20 minutes 3x/week.

 

 

“Eat to Live”

We’ve all read about Amercia’s poor eating habits and rising obesity rates, especially among our youth.  As a country we eat far too much fast food, processed foods, animal products, foods high in preservative chemicals and food high in trans saturated fat.   Obesity has been linked to a host of medical conditions –heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease and yes, cancer.

 

In his best selling book “Eat to Live,” Dr. Joel Furhman educates his readers on how to live healthier lives by changing to a diet comprised mostly of fruits, vegetables, nuts and the right whole grains.   In one chapter, Dr. Furhman describes cancer as a “fruit and vegetable deficiency. ”  He dispels the myth that a person must have a daily allowance of dairy and meat products because one can’t get enough protein from fruits and vegetables.   I was surprised by how much protein is in a heaping serving of broccoli.

Though we all probably know a few vegetarians, Dr Furhman notes that being a vegetarian is not necessarily the key to having a diet that helps avoid disease.  There are vegetarians who avoid meat and other animal products by eating a lot of whole grains, but who may not be eating enough fruits and vegetables.  Eating the right quantities of fruit and vegetables is what matters.

A family friend recommended Dr. Furhman’s book.  This friend lost over 100 lbs by following Dr. Furhman’s advice. His sleep apnea went away as did his high blood pressure.  And his weight has stayed off.

Check out http://www.drfuhrman.com/ to learn more.

 

 

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