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Preventing Breast Cancer

January 1, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of malignancy in women. That is a hard fact. But should women just hope they won’t add to those statistics? Or, are there ways to be proactive and increase the odds of steering clear of cancer altogether? Today, I want to highlight a strategy that may help put you in the “steer clear” camp.

The Insulin Dance

Overweight, postmenopausal women are known to be at greater risk for breast cancer (BC). These same women often have higher levels of estrogen, and this is thought to increase the likelihood of an occurrence of BC. But it is also true that obese women generally have higher insulin levels. A new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute raises the question: Do higher insulin levels equal a great risk of cancer of the breast?

In order to investigate, researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied two groups of women. One group had breast cancer. The other did not. The researchers measured a number of substances in their blood, including their insulin levels and a form of estrogen called estradiol.

Once all the measurements were collected and analyzed, an interesting picture began to take form. The women who had the highest insulin levels also had a significantly higher incidence of breast cancer (roughly 1.5 times the risk), as compared to the women with the lowest insulin.

When the researchers looked even closer at the data and studied only the women who were on hormone replacement therapy (HRC), they found an even more striking difference. The women on HRC with the highest insulin levels were almost 2.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer – versus the women on HRC with the lowest insulin.

Another interesting finding was that risk for BC in obese postmenopausal women lessened, if their insulin levels were on the lower side.

The conclusion of the study stated, “These data suggest that hyperinsulinemia is an independent risk factor for breast cancer and may have a substantial role in explaining the obesity-breast cancer relationship.” Hyperinsulinemia is defined as having elevated insulin.

Please take note of this. Do all you can to properly manage your blood sugar levels and insulin output. Even if your weight isn’t perfect, you may still be able to counteract that risk factor by managing insulin in such a way as to promote a protective effect against breast cancer.

Generally speaking, eating whole, unprocessed foods that are rich in protein, fat and fiber tend to keep blood sugar and insulin in check. Certain nutrients can further enhance the effect of a healthy diet. Exercise can assist our bodies to manage insulin properly. Finally, practicing stress reduction is a vital piece to this puzzle, as stress hormones may counteract insulin and raise blood sugar levels.

Update from 5/8/09: Dietary Lignans and Breast Cancer

Be well!


Tip of the Day: Invest in a blood glucose meter. Don’t just guess that your blood sugar is in a healthy range. Getting your blood sugar and insulin tested once a year at your yearly physical may not be good enough.

Blood glucose meter - Test for Yourself

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One Comment to “Preventing Breast Cancer”

  1. JP Says:

    Update 04/22/15:


    Clin Cancer Res April 15, 2015 21; 1877

    Caffeine and Caffeic Acid Inhibit Growth and Modify Estrogen Receptor and Insulin-like Growth Factor I Receptor Levels in Human Breast Cancer

    Purpose: Epidemiologic studies indicate that dietary factors, such as coffee, may influence breast cancer and modulate hormone receptor status. The purpose of this translational study was to investigate how coffee may affect breast cancer growth in relation to estrogen receptor-α (ER) status.

    Experimental Design: The influence of coffee consumption on patient and tumor characteristics and disease-free survival was assessed in a population-based cohort of 1,090 patients with invasive primary breast cancer in Sweden. Cellular and molecular effects by the coffee constituents caffeine and caffeic acid were evaluated in ER+ (MCF-7) and ER− (MDA-MB-231) breast cancer cells.

    Results: Moderate (2–4 cups/day) to high (≥5 cups/day) coffee intake was associated with smaller invasive primary tumors (Ptrend = 0.013) and lower proportion of ER+ tumors (Ptrend = 0.018), compared with patients with low consumption (≤1 cup/day). Moderate to high consumption was associated with lower risk for breast cancer events in tamoxifen-treated patients with ER+ tumors (adjusted HR, 0.51; 95% confidence interval, 0.26–0.97). Caffeine and caffeic acid suppressed the growth of ER+ (P ≤ 0.01) and ER− (P ≤ 0.03) cells. Caffeine significantly reduced ER and cyclin D1 abundance in ER+ cells. Caffeine also reduced the insulin-like growth factor-I receptor (IGFIR) and pAkt levels in both ER+ and ER− cells. Together, these effects resulted in impaired cell-cycle progression and enhanced cell death.

    Conclusions: The clinical and experimental findings demonstrate various anticancer properties of caffeine and caffeic acid against both ER+ and ER− breast cancer that may sensitize tumor cells to tamoxifen and reduce breast cancer growth. Clin Cancer Res; 21(8); 1877–87.

    Be well!


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