A Breast Cancer Prevention Diet Should Include Lots of Herbs and Spices
Breast Cancer and Spices
The incidence of breast cancer and the death rate from this disease are four to five times lower in countries where large quantities of spices are eaten.
The inclusion of more spices in the diet should be part of any breast cancer preventive program.
East and West
Breast cancer is the commonest cancers in women globally with 95% of them diagnosed in women over 40 years of age. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment help to reduce the mortality rate from this scourge. However some types of aggressive cancer do not respond readily to hormone therapy, radiation or chemotherapy.
The most staggering breast cancer statistic is the vast difference in incidence of this disease between east and west. It varies from a low of 22 per 100 000 in the East to 90 per 100 000 in North America. In other words there is approximately a five fold difference in the incidence and death rate of breast cancer between these two regions!
And, if you look at a map that shows global incidence of breast cancer, you will see that the areas where there is a high level of spice consumption correspond to there areas where there is a low incidence of breast cancer – and vise-verse.
Contemporary research into the cancer-fighting properties of spices tells us why this is so. Many spices, turmeric in particular, contain compounds that have proven cancer fighting abilities. Moreover, this research shows that combinations of spices and their constituent phytonutrients are far more effective than the individual compounds themselves.
Turmeric’s main constituent phytonutrient, curcumin, is one of the most remarkable and most studied of all the spice compounds. In addition to its other medicinal properties, curcumin is an extremely valuable chemoprotective agent.
Much of the research and interest in curcumin has centred on breast cancer, but it has also been found to have protective effects against cancers of the bladder, stomach, uterus and cervix.
When measured against other compounds that protect against cancer, curcumin exhibits at least a ten times greater chemoprotective potency than its closest rival.
Laboratory studies have shown that a single dose of curcumin inhibits cancer cell proliferation for over six days following its administration.
Curcumin assists the body’s natural tumour-suppressing mechanisms in the following ways:
Stimulating cancer cell death,
Inhibition of DNA synthesis in cancer cells
Disruption of the blood supply to cancer cells
Most breast cancers are hormone dependent, requiring oestrogen as a growth stimulant. Tamoxifen, which is one of the most used drugs in the treatment of breast cancer, works against this hormone-mediated process, interfering with oestrogen’s tumour stimulating effects.
Curcumin exhibits its anti-oestrongenic effects by blocking the oestrogen-dependent receptors on tumour cells, thereby interrupting the cancer-stimulatory effects of oestrogen and slowing tumour growth. Some studies have shown that curcumin may be at least as effective as tamoxifen as an oestrogen antagonist
HRT, turmeric and breast cancer
Curcumin blocks the carcinogenic effects of hormone replacement therapy in post menopausal women.
Most hormone replacement preparations prescribed for post menopausal problems include a combination of estrogens and progestin hormones. It is the latter synthetic progesterones that increase the risk of breast cancer in those who have such bad menopausal symptoms that they cannot do without hormone replacement therapies.
Progestins increase the risk of breast cancer by stimulating the blood supply to developing cancer cells. They do this by enhancing the production of a growth factor that is responsible for the formation of new blood vessels.
By blocking the production of the progestin-stimulated growth factor, curcumin attenuates the blood supply to breast cancer cells without which they cannot survive.
Black pepper is an antioxidant-rich spice that has been shown to protect against several cancers. Moreover it contains an important compound, piperine that enhances the anti-cancer effects of other spice compounds including curcumin.
Without piperine curcumin would be almost totally ineffective against cancer cells. Piperine increases the bioavailability of curcumin by several hundred per cent and is a good illustration of the importance of using spices in combination to combat diseases such as cancer.
Other important cancer fighting spices:
All spices have high antioxidant activity and as such provide defense against cancer-inducing free radical damage. Spice that have attracted specific anti-cancer research are: cumin, garlic, ginger, citrus zest, anise basil, capsicums, clove fennel, rosemary, caraway, mustard
Other important cancer fighting foods:
Green tea, soy, grapes, brassica vegetables such as broccoli.