Thursday, October 14, 2010

Write Pink!: Prevention, Hyacynth's Story

Welcome to Write Pink! From the Head, Heart and Feet: Prevention Week. This week we're focusing on the action part {hence, feet} of breast cancer awareness -- what we can all do to lesson our chances of developing breast cancer.

I'm no breast-cancer expert.

But I am a worrier by nature and a journalist by education, {which is like the perfect storm for hours of endless reading in quests for the truth}, so I pay attention to the facts, the research and the studies.

And though I no longer pen for a newspaper, I find being an avid reasearcher is pretty much my job, both as a mother and wife and a Curves owner.

Because I deal with prevention daily {for many, many diseases including but not limited to breast cancer} in each of those roles, I'm constantly picking apart information.

In my reading, there's a major point that has resurfaced in many studies, and that's the integeral role elevated estrogen levels play in breast cancer.

Let me dissect it very briefly.

Increased estrogen levels have been linked to breast-cancer development.

So common sense tells us we should consciously try to maintain natural estrogen levels.

But in order to do so, we must know what increases those levels in the first place.

First and foremost, being overweight increases estrogen in the body because our fat tissues releases estrogen.

Right there, we put ourselves at greater risk for devloping not only breast cancer but myriad other diseases.

{Rose will be writing on diet and exercise specifics tomorrow, so be sure to check out her prevention piece.}

After lowering body fat through proper nutrition and exercise, I've focused {as a Curves owner and mother and wife} on three things to help maintain proper estrogen levels. {Some of these things may seem radical, but through my research, I've determined this is what's best for our family. Also, each of these things have were a Bigger Picture Moment in themselves, and it's taken about four years for us to be at this place in life. So if you're aspiring to adhere to some of these lifestyle choices, be patient with yourself.}

1. If you choose to have babies, choose to breastfeed

From The National Cancer Institute study:

CONCLUSIONS: Women with deleterious BRCA1 mutations who breast-fed for a
cumulative total of more than 1 year had a statistically significantly
reduced risk of breast cancer.

That's encouraging news. It was so encouraging that way back when our first-born was a small baby, I made it my personal goal to nurse however many kiddos we have for a grand total of seven years because my lactation consultant had shared research that concluded mothers who nursed for seven years had a very small chance of developing breast cancer.

Since I like nursing and the health benefits extend beyond just decreased risk of breast cancer, I thought it would be fun to shoot for the full seven. {Yes, my definition of the word fun here is questionable.}

A case-controlled study of Sri Lankan mothers found great benefits for breastfeeding mothers in relation to not developing breast cancer:

In conclusion, our study observed a significant inverse association between both lifetime duration of breastfeeding and average duration per child and risk of breast carcinoma. The findings were supported by dose–response relationship, with increasing duration of breastfeeding the risk of cancer risk is reduced.
Let me break it down: Mothers who nursed babies for 36-47 months had a 94 percent risk reduction for developing breast cancer. And every

Nurse on, Baby E., nurse on.

2. Avoid plastics.

About two months ago, I purged about 90 percent of the plasticware in our kitchen -- and it only too four years of consciously thinking about reducing our plastic exposure.

I'd read yet another article dissecting a study about the link between plastics and increased estrogen levels just before I went to unload the dishwasher. After I'd collected the plastic containers from the top rack, I opened the cabinet only to have plastic lids and containers pelt my head and arms.

And that was the day the music died, so to speak, and about 90 percent of the plastic went straight to the recycling bin.

I'll admit. This is controversial. But the research makes sense.


A great deal of research has been reported and more is being done to understand
possible environmental influences on breast cancer risk.

Of special interest are compounds in the environment that have been found in lab
studies to have estrogen-like properties, which could in theory affect
breast cancer risk. For example, substances found in some plastics, certain
cosmetics and personal care products, pesticides (such as DDE), and PCBs
(polychlorinated biphenyls) seem to have such properties.

I very clearly see a link. So we avoid plastics when possible by adhering to a few simple practices:

1. Use paper bags or canvas at the store
2. Use glass containers for food storage
3. Use food-grade stainless steel water bottles or regular glasses
4. Use glass alternatives to plastic, like what's featured as today's giveaway, the Strawesome straws
5. Choose raw materials whenever possible in leiu of plastics (example: wool diaper covers, cloth table covers, wooden blocks, wooden shelves for storage}

Seems overwhelming?

Pick one, and then slowly increase as it feels natural.

3. Use non-hormonal birth control methods

If we're trying to maintain perfect estrogen composition, it only makes sense to eliminate additional doses of estrogen.

My doctor feels so strongly against using synthetic hormones as birth control, he won't even prescribe birth control pills.

I won't go into huge detail, but I will say a few things:

1. The pill made me feel crazy kinds of hormonal {hello, extra estrogen!}.
2. Birth control pills contain estrogen.
3. Diaphrams are effective and easy to use.
4. Our second child was planned {we had been using a diaphragm as birth control before we consciously made the choice to try for number two}

Draw your own conclusions about safe and effective birth control.

You don't have to be a breast-cancer expert to take reduce your risks of developing breast cancer.

But you do have to look at the research, the links and then take preventative measures, like some of the aforementioned suggestions and methods that have been shared this week.

And remember: take action, but be patient with yourself! Lifestyle changes are slow going and require a calm, planned approach.

Link up your Bigger Picture Moment about breast cancer prevention through Wednesday, Oct. 20. {Blog or Facebook notes both work!}

By linking up, you will automatically be entered to win a set of four special edition glass straws from Strawesome {cut down on your plastic exposure!}. A winner will be chosen by

By commenting on any one of the prevention posts, including Monday's, Tuesday's or Wednesday's, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win Breast Cancer Scientist T shirt {adult or child-sized} from
Pigtail Pals.

Reading prevention week articles is a step in the right direction. Now let's use those feet. What's the next step you'll take in prevention? What wheels are turning in your head about ways you could decrease your risk of developing breast cancer?

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  1. Do you have any recommendation of glass food storage conatainers, to replace tupperware/rubbermaid type items?

  2. @MommyInstincts: Yes! We use Pyrex dishes. We got them at Sam's club -- a 20 piece set for about $15. It was well worth it. The glass is heavy duty, and it stands up to even toddler abuse. The lids are made of a plastic-esque material, but I like that our food touches mostly glass unless we've filled the bowl to the brim.
    And, FWIW, I've been giving G his yogurt in a glass dish since he was 18 months. Never had any incidents! Best of luck!

  3. As I was reading the plastics portion I reached for my water and noted it's in a plastic cup... I can easily switch to glass, do you have a recommendation for the kids?

  4. @Rose, some of the 10 percent of plastics that remain in our house include sippy cups. However, those sippy cups are BPA and phthalate free, which are two hormone disrupting plastics, as you mentioned in your BPM today. {Which was awesome, btw!}. However, as those cups have been dying, we're not replacing with plastic. We've implemented a drink-at-the-table policy with G now that he's three, and he uses ceramic and glass cups often.
    When we're drinking water, which is what we drink most often, we use stainless steel water bottles. As the rest of the sippy cups die, though, I'll be investing in some Kleen Kanteens with Sippy Lids, though, because the Kleen Kanteens are made of food-grade stainless steel.

  5. This is good stuff, Hy. Good in a kindly kick-in-the-pants sort of way. Because yes -- we're all allowed to choose how we live, but it seems like many of us don't actually look into the effects of our choices. Breastfeeding, for example, is touted as a personal choice with no negatives if that choice is a no. When actually there are HUGE negatives to not breastfeeding -- among them are these stats about breast cancer. So why do we feel so politically incorrect for telling people of these important finds?

    I'm proud of you :)

  6. We -- well, I, because no one else in my house cares -- have been slowly switching over from plastics to glass. We love Pyrex and have found we need less cabinet space because we used to save all food containers, etc., for reuse. You really don't need a cabinet full of plastic. We also keep paper takeout containers (like in a Chinese restaurant) for using when people want to take leftovers home with them.

    Great tips!

  7. these are great points, all. i love that breastfeeding is not just good for my baby but me, too.

    we're also paring down/replacing plastics, but my first step was at least to stop microwaving in them. my kids drink at the table from glass and we use pyrex ramekins for snacks, too--they're sturdier than most people think.

    the thing that keeps frustrating me is that i can avoid BPA in plastics, but it's still in canned goods. i would love to see the US ban it altogether (i think i read canada just did...)

    parabens in body products is another tricky synthetic-estrogen to avoid. i bought a "green" shampoo online, and when it came i realized it has parabens. we have to be so vigilant!

  8. also, thrift/antique stores can be great places for pyrex. has anyone tried those "shower cap" type covers to use instead of plastic wrap/lids? i want to try them:)

  9. @Kelly -- I LOVE the takeout box idea.

    @Suzannah -- never heard of the shower cap type lids. Can you give us a link?

  10. found some!

    and the plastic-y ones, too:

  11. I didn't know about the plastics connection. I have to make some changes for sure. Thanks Hyacynth for this important post.


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