Breast Cancer…a Family Tradition?

by Lyne Desforges, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Sobering Statistics

According to the Canadian Cancer Society “It is estimated that about 1 in 8 Canadian women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime and 1 in 33 will die from it”

If you know 8 women, then statistically one of them will get breast cancer. That is a sobering thought.

My family history

In our family, that “one in 8” is my mother. She had breast cancer… TWICE! However, she is a cancer survivor and thriving at age 87. Now it doesn’t end there. Her mother and her sister also had breast cancer. I often wonder if I will be part of this “family tradition”. If not me, then will it be my sister? What about my two daughters, or even my son?

Whether it is genetics or coincidences, I automatically become a high-risk candidate. That means regular mammograms. Every time I get a notice in the mail that I am due for a screening, my heart rate goes up. I keep wondering if this year is THE year. Twice, in the past few years, I have had to go for a second test. Those few days of waiting for the final results are stressful. But so far, I seem to have dodged the bullet.

According to Action Cancer Ontario, 80% of breast cancer cases are detected in women over 50 years old. As I am approaching 60, I count my blessings every day and keep wondering what the future will hold.

Making Changes to Reduce Breast Cancer Risks

Knowing all this means I am more conscious of my diet and lifestyle choices. It has motivated me to make a few conscious changes in my life.

  1. I limit my alcohol intake.

    According to, “women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink at all. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day.”
  2. I don’t drink cow’s milk and limit other dairy.

    Studies are inconclusive on whether there is a direct link to breast cancer, but this review article suggests that there could be a link. They state that “during the last couple of years, increasing body of evidence are indicating another property of hormones in dairy products as possible impact on human health including the role of some estrogens and insulin-like growth factor-1 in initiation and provoking of breast, prostate and endometrial tumours.”
  3. I only use natural cleaning products and personal care products.

    This means less exposure to xenoestrogens, which are external sources of oestrogen. These have been linked to breast cancer.
  4. I have reduced all plastics in our household

    Even BPA-free plastics are not advisable. According to research by Sum Dinda Ph.D. at Oakland University, “despite hopes for a safer alternative to BPA, studies have shown BPS to exhibit similar estrogen-mimicking behavior to BPA.” Dinda and his team found that BPS acted like estrogen in multiplying breast cancer cells.
  5. I move my body everyday as much as possible

    Not only does it help my mental state, but it is cancer protective. According to this review of over 73 different studies, “there was a 25% average risk reduction amongst physically active women as compared to the least active women. The associations were strongest for recreational activity, for activity sustained over the lifetime or done after menopause, and for activity that is of moderate to vigorous intensity and performed regularly. “

What about Stress?

That is definitely my biggest challenge. Owning a business has certainly meant a roller-coaster of emotions and stressful moments. And I know that stress is a big factor in breast cancer occurrence. According to a new study by a team of researchers from two Universities in Switzerland, “stress hormones support breast cancer metastasis”.

Embracing Life

As I continue on this journey called life, I will continue to take deep breaths, to meditate as often as possible, to take long walks in the forest, to live in the moment, and try to find joy daily.  I will be grateful every day for my health, my youthful mother, my vibrant sister, and my two amazing daughters. I continue to hope that we will not become one of those statistics. But if we do, I know that we will follow another big family tradition: unconditional love and support; and that makes me more grateful than ever.