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The China Study & Breast Cancer

Posted Oct 25 2008 4:49pm

T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., along with his son Tom, are authors of The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long Term Health. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. His main scientific interest is the study of the health benefits derived from eating a plant-based diet.

In his book, Campbell states: "There are at least four important breast cancer risk factors that are affected by nutrition. Many of these relationships were confirmed in the China Study after being well established in other research.

Risk of breast cancer increases with 1) early age of menarche (first menstruation), 2) late age of menopause, 3) high levels of female hormones, 4) high blood cholesterol.

A diet high in animal foods and refined carbohydrates: 1) lowers the age of menarche, 2) raises the age of menopause, 3) increases female hormone levels, 4) increases blood cholesterol levels.

With the exception of blood cholesterol, these risk factors are variations on the same theme: exposure to excess amounts of female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, leads to an increase risk in breast cancer. Women who consume a diet rich in animal-based foods, reach puberty earlier and menopause later, thus extending their reproductive lives. They also have higher levels of female hormones throughout their lifespan.

According to our China Study data, lifetime exposure to estrogen is at least 2.5-3.0 times higher among Western women when compared with rural Chinese women. This is a huge difference for such a critically important hormone. To use the words of one of the leading breast cancer research groups in the world, "there is overwhelming evidence that estrogen levels are a critical determinant of breast cancer risk". Estrogen directly participates in the cancer process. It also tends to indicate the presence of other female hormones that play a role in breast cancer risk. Increased levels of estrogen and related hormones are the result of the consumption of typical Western diets, high in fat and animal protein and low in fiber.

The difference in estrogen levels between rural Chinese women and Western women is all the more remarkable because a previous report found that a mere 17% decrease in estrogen levels could account for a huge difference in breast cancer rates when comparing different countries. Imagine, then, what 26%-63% lower blood estrogen levels and eight to nine fewer reproductive years of blood estrogen exposure could mean, as we found in the China Study.

The idea that breast cancer is centered on estrogen exposure is profound because diet plays a major role in establishing estrogen exposure. This suggests that the risk of breast cancer is preventable if we eat foods that will keep estrogen levels under control. The sad truth is that most women are simply not aware of this evidence. If this information were properly reported by responsible and credible public health agencies, I suspect that many young women might be taking very real, very effective steps to avoid this awful disease."

I wonder why my doctors and the American Cancer Society do not have this information at the top of their list of important things to do alongside the "have your yearly mammogram!"

Have they not read this important scientific information? How long will it take before they do? And then integrate it into their practices, if ever? I often wonder. I'm glad that I did not wait to make these dietary changes in my life or I wouldn't be here today. Yes, we have to find the answers ourselves. It pays off big time to be proactive and to look beyond the status quo. Dietary practices are the biggest missing piece in the treatment of the breast cancer. Click here to learn more!

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