Julia Louis-Dreyfus

8 avoidable causes of breast cancer that could strike any woman

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

On September 17, Julia Louis-Dreyfus took home her sixth consecutive win for best actress in a comedy category and the next day announced on twitter “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one.”

Like Angelina Jolie, Nancy Reagan and other high visibility women who have discussed their own battles with breast cancer, Louis-Dreyfus has chosen to go public with a very private disease to courageously allow us to discuss issues surrounding its occurrence.

Unfortunately, none of the news reports so far have carried information about incidence of breast or related cancers among her relatives. We don’t know the medical history of half-sister Lauren Bowles. News reports also fail to note the cause of death of her mother. Robert Louis-Dreyfus, one of her cousins, was the former CEO of Adidas and owner of the Olympique de Marseille football club; he died of leukemia in 2009 at 63.

We don’t know Louis-Dreyfus’s genetic profile, unlike with Angelina who revealed her DNA’s vulnerability to breast cancer via the BRCA gene. We might have a genetic susceptibility at play but we don’t know or even know if Louis-Dreyfus knows or wants to know.

Louis-Dreyfus, in fact, doesn’t appear to be exceptional in any way with regard to breast cancer.

Thankfully, treatments have gotten better and more women survive their breast cancer and Louis-Dreyfus has taken the moment to speak out on the need to “make universal health care a reality.” She admitted she has “fantastic” insurance through her union but “not all women are so lucky, so let's fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.”

Yet prevention needs to be part of healthcare in America and what we seem to lose sight of is that reducing incidence is not only possible but where it is at both for our society and individual protection. We hope Louis-Dreyfus talks about avoidable environmental causes so women can be informed and weigh whether they want to incur these risks. But what we do know that when she mentions she is one of eight women with breast cancer that the rate of increase for this disease is distinctly influenced by environmental and medical factors.

Here are 8 environmental causes of breast cancer that are underplayed causes of breast cancer for any woman…

1. Hair Dyes
The association between hair dye use and breast cancer is supported by evidence on excess breast cancers among cosmetologists and hairdressers. , , , , It could be argued that cosmetologists, who wear protective clothing and gloves, are less exposed than users who apply the dyes, especially the darker ones, to their scalps. Also, there is experimental evidence that a current dye used in many products causes breast cancer when it is coupled with hydrogen peroxide. Thus, questions about the safety of such products persist. The darker hair colors are most likely to cause cancer.

2. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Yes, estrogen can maintain bone density but other side of HRT is the complications. Substantial evidence dating to the 1930s has proven that estrogen induces breast and other cancers in animals. , , In 1976, the Medical Letter emphasized that estrogens produce cancer in the breast and other organs in mice, rats, rabbits, hamsters, squirrel-monkeys and dogs: “No other drug effect so readily reproducible in such a wide variety of test animals has been generally regarded as not potentially applicable to man.” Barbara Seaman emphasized in her 1977 book, Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones, “the estrogenization of American women is a major factor in our rising rates of female cancers.” She was so right as today we know that many chemicals act like the female hormone. But taking HRT is a big factor for increased risk.

3. Alcohol
The consumption of alcohol, in the form of beer, distilled spirits and wine, is a pleasurable ritual in the lives of many women. Drinking alcohol is a social lubricant, stress reliever, relaxant and offers a pleasurable sensory experience. Most women consume alcohol in moderation, ingesting less than approximately two drinks per day. In fact, fewer than 3% of women, some four million, consume two or more drinks of alcohol daily. But if you do, you’re at risk for breast cancer. The relationship of alcohol consumption to breast cancer has been thoroughly studied since at least 1957. Some 50 studies have been done to study this relationship, based on a population of more than 11,000 women with breast cancer. , These many studies, on the whole, have shown that alcohol consumption is associated with a risk for breast cancer and that this risk starts with consumption of one or more drinks daily with a drink a day equated roughly to one four- to five-ounce glass of wine, a single 12-ounce beer, or one-ounce shot of distilled spirits.

4. Bovine Growth Hormone in Dairy Products
Another new threat to women is the introduction of bovine growth hormone (BGH) into the food supply via dairy products. In November 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave final approval for allowing the sale of milk made with a genetically engineered hormone called bovine growth hormone that has been shown to increase a cow’s milk production. BGH-treated cows produce milk with sustained increases of 4-6x more insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is both a benefactor and detractor; it can induce malignant transformation of normal breast tissues and maintains their malignancy, progression and invasiveness. In fact, human breast cancer cells continue to produce IGF-1 and other growth stimulating factors in order to maintain their growth and spread to other body parts. IGF-1 also induces rapid division and multiplication of cultured human breast cells, a hallmark of breast cancer risk. Watch out for milk with BGH. It could spur a non-invasive cancer into one that becomes malignant.

5. Hormones in Beef
The Cattlemen’s message: don’t worry, gals. The National Cattlemen’s Association says estrogenic exposures in beef are trivial. The cattlemen say women are exposed throughout their lifetimes to rather large quantities of these compounds by their body’s own daily synthesis of hormones and lesser quantities from nonmedicated food-producing animals. Therefore, they say, additional exposures make no difference and no harmful effects will occur in women who are chronically ingesting animal tissues that contain synthetic hormones. The cattlemen point out that the amount by law must be equal to one percent or less of the amount produced daily by the population with the lowest daily production rate; in the case of estradiol, prepubertal boys. “A non-pregnant woman could consume 474 pounds of beef per day from implanted animals without ingesting more than one percent of her daily estrogen production,” notes the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University.

More than a decade ago, however, Roy Hertz, then director of endocrinology of the National Cancer Institute and a world authority on hormonal cancer, warned of the carcinogenic risks of estrogenic feed additives, particularly for hormonally sensitive tissues such as breast tissue, because they could increase normal body hormonal levels and disturb delicately poised hormonal balances.

In 1977 Dr. Hertz responded to the cattle industry’s trivializing women’s exposure to hormonal animal drugs: “The average woman will have on any given day in her total plasma volume approximately 20 micrograms equivalent of estrogen activity. We know also, from the standpoint of cancer, that if we cut that level of estrogen in half, by ovariectomy, in a third of the cases we can get a regression of a preexisting breast cancer. We also know that if we add back that amount of estrogen to a woman with breast cancer who has previously been ovariectomized, we can exacerbate her disease . . . So that gives you an order of magnitude of the kind of trace substance we’re involved with. This business of thousands of tons of beef is a reductio ad absurdum which has no pertinence to the physiological problem before us.. . . We’re talking about the addition to an important food item of a substance at a level of concentration which is of the same order of magnitude as that which has profound physiological effects in the human body normally, in the human body affected by breast cancer . . .”

6. Tranquilizers
In 1976, Dr. Basil Stoll, of St. Thomas’s Hospital, London, found that tranquilizer use was significantly greater among women with spreading breast cancer and who had a recurrence within twelve months of treatment also were more likely to have used tranquilizers. , Making matters worse—if the tranquilizer-breast cancer association is real—Stoll found tranquilizer use increased two to threefold among women after diagnosis of breast cancer. , That meant doctors were prescribing women a drug to calm them, in the midst of their crisis, that possibly could promote metastases.

7. Premenopausal Mammography
Mammography, when used on asymptomatic premenopausal women, becomes Darwinian in effect, striking the most vulnerable early in the screening process. Pooled analyses of major international screening studies have produced evidence not only of no benefit to younger women, but of increased mortality from the use of mammography for screening asymptomatic women. In every major clinical controlled trial analyzed in the most recent pooled analysis of the world’s randomized ’s studies, excess breast cancer deaths have been shown to occur early on among premenopausal women, typically during the first five to seven years.

Among the studies:
• In the Health Insurance Plan of New York (HIP) study, there were excess deaths among screened women up to the third year.
• In the Swedish Malmö trial, studying 42,000 women aged 45 to 69 years, “there was a nonsignificant excess mortality of 29% among study women under 55.”
• In the Stockholm trial, involving 60,000 women aged 40 to 64, “there was a nonsignificant 7% increase in breast cancer mortality.”
• In the Canadian National Breast Screening Study “there was a 36% increase in breast cancer mortality in screened women.” “The study, then, did not simply show no benefit to women under 50, but demonstrated that screening mammography is dangerous for women under 50.”

Overall, when looking at the pooled results of the major studies, mortality is increased by about 8% among premenopausal women. Statistically, the studies allow the opportunity for these results to be due simply to chance. Yet, the results occur in study on study. “The consistency of the effect between the different studies is disturbing” and “suggests the possibility that they represent a true effect [and] must be taken seriously.”

The breasts of premenopausal women are more radiation sensitive than those of postmenopausal women. Thus, their risk is greater. At typical levels of mammographic exposure, if a woman were to begin screening at age 40—as advocated by the American College of Radiology, American Medical Association and American Cancer Society—her risk of breast cancer would be 20% greater than if she were to begin at age 55, about the time when mammography yields significant reductions in mortality. For women who began screening at age 35 their risk is even greater.

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