Thank you, Shunra, for asking me about Barbara Ehrenreich's conclusion that diet has no link to breast cancer. You just gave me something to write about... a soap box, if you will.
This is exactly what Ms. Ehrenreich said on her blog yesterday:
"The perennial temptation to blame disease on sin or at least some grave moral failing just took another hit. A major new study shows that women on a virtuous low fat diet with an extraordinary abundance of fruits and veggies were no less likely to die of breast cancer than women who grazed more freely. Media around the world have picked up on the finding, cautioning, prudishly, that you can’t beat breast cancer with cheeseburgers and beer."
Faithful blog reader Shunra appropriately inquired as to who was right, since this is in direct opposition to the study I quoted yesterday, saying women who ate 5 or more fruit and vegetables a day where 50% less likely to die of breast cancer.
Hmmmm... Let's think. Besides the fact that Ms. Ehrenreich is not a nutritionist or a health professional, I find it ironic that we both quoted the same study on the same day, saying two entirely different things. Now, it's also interesting that she didn't quote the source of the study (a June report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology) or give us any specifics (like, let's say, a 50% less likelihood of mortality from breast cancer). Apparently, this woman felt that readers can rely on her to completely summarize publicly accessible information for them, as well as draw informed conclusions. Her readers must be grateful for such simple, unburdening conclusions.
I wish I could agree with Barbara Ehrenreich, but I know too much.
For example, when scientists study "risk" or "likelihood" of cancer, they look at levels of certain steriod hormones in a person's body. These hormones are predictors of cancer, since past studies have established their relationship with reproductive cancer.
Studies have also found these precursor hormones to be increased or decreased depending on dietary compounds, as well as toxic substances in the environment. Compounds shown to decrease these pre-cancer hormones are phytoestrogens, antioxidant vitamins and minerals, fiber, and many other phytochemicals such as lignans, flavanoids and isoflavones. Compounds shown to increase pre-cancer hormones range from toxic substances in food (mercury, pesticides, etc.), to hormones in food (such as IGF-1 in milk and dairy).
So there, Barbara. If diet doesn't have anything to do with breast cancer, what does exactly? How exactly do you explain cancer incidence, or how some people are breast cancer survivors and others aren't? Indulge us.
Labels: breast cancer survival