It was a beautiful day in April, 2011, when a handsome young man looked me in the eyes and said those three little words that would change my life forever: “You have cancer.” That man was my surgeon, Dr. Arjun Rayapudi (or Doc. McDreamy as me and my sisters referred to him.) I remember crying out in anguish, “I’m going to die!”, for in my mind, stage 3 breast cancer brought with it a guaranteed death sentence. Little did I know that two years later, a very healthy Flo would be standing side by side with this very same doctor, educating people about diet and cancer prevention.
Dr. Rayapudi is a board certified General Surgeon with an avid interest in Cancer Prevention/Treatment and Nutrition, currently working at Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre. He was kind enough to guest blog for me this post on the link between diet and cancer. I welcome Dr. Rayapudi to the blogosphere!
Dr. Rayapudi Says:
It is a great privilege for me to contribute to the Perks of Having Cancer forum. Flo’s positive attitude towards cancer diagnosis is inspirational. Her attitude to seek opportunity in the problem she faced, reminds me of sayings “Tough people last tough times don’t” and “What doesn’t kill you make your stronger”. Her blog has been helpful to patients and families to navigate through difficult phases of their lives when faced with cancer diagnosis.
In this post, my objective is to empower women by raising awareness about the connection between the diet/life style choices and breast cancer.
The incidence of Breast cancer and Colon cancer on BurinPeninsula is appalling. I had the opportunity to take care of several patients with breast cancer in last 2 and half years at Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre. Most patients with breast cancer that were when diagnosed in early stages did well. There were some patients who died in 40’s and 50’s due to advanced breast cancer despite conventional treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The suffering of the patients and their families is enormous. It motivated me to explore the causes of breast cancer and increase my focus on breast cancer prevention. The causes of breast cancer are multifactorial. The important factors that increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer are positive family history of breast cancer, Diet, Obesity, smoking, amount of estrogen exposure throughout the life.
Genetic factors are important but genes by themselves do not determine who gets the disease. Genes load the gun with bullets whereas diet and lifestyle factors appear to pull the trigger.
Diet appears to play a significant role. Cancer cells form and multiply because of alteration in the genes. Our bodies have immune system which helps to knock off the cancer cells. Numerous studies have shown that cancer is more common in populations consuming diets rich in fatty foods, particularly meat and much less common in populations with diets rich in grains, vegetables and fruits.
As you can see from below various colorful plant foods have anti-oxidants/phytochemicals and fiber which boost the ability of the immune system of the body to fight the cancer cells. Fiber in the plant foods also binds the toxic carcinogens in the gut before they try to enter the blood circulation.
(Source: Above chart is from PCRM website)
In contrast, animal foods lack fiber and several protective anti-oxidants which boost the immune system. Attached graphs below show the relationships between animal fat intake, daily meat consumption and risk of acquiring breast and colon cancer in various countries. These charts display that as intake of animal fat and meat increases the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer increases almost in linear fashion. Studies show that animal products contain potentially carcinogenic compounds that may contribute to increased risk of cancer. Consuming high fat diets increases estrogen levels which can contribute to increased risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer has also been linked to consumption of cow’s milk products. Consumption of cow’s milk products increases the level of hormone called Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1). Studies show that circulating levels of this hormone is positively associated with breast cancer risk.
(Sources for above charts: Carroll, K.K. (1975), Cancer Res 35:3374-3383 and China Study by Dr. Campbell)
In summary, eating plant foods and less processed foods appears to decreases risk of breast cancer, and eating more animal based foods and processed foods appears to increases risk of breast cancer. My suggestion to anyone who is serious about decreasing your risk of breast cancer is to minimize or eliminate animal based foods and embrace whole foods plant based lifestyle.
I encourage everyone to be proactive and learn more about this important health issue.
Click on the following links for articles for further education
http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/cancer/women.pdf – Women and Cancer: Opportunities for Prevention
http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/faq_dairy.pdf – Health Concerns about Dairy Products
Some resources I would recommend are
- Read book “China Study” by Dr. Colin Campbell
- Watch DVD – Forks Over Knives
- Browse website www.PCRM.org (Physicians committee for responsible medicine). This website is by Dr. Neal Barnard.
- There is extensive amount of valuable information on this website about Nutrition and Cancer Prevention
- Look for low fat plant based recipes on the internet
- Read book “The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program” by Dr. Jane A. Plant
- Some cookbooks to browse – Forks over Knives cook book, Cook books by Dr. McDougall, Cook Books by Dr. Neal Barnard.
- http://www.NutritionMD.org – this website has several recipes for plant based diet
I highly encourage everyone to educate their families and friends about the prevention of breast cancer.
Thank you Dr. Rayapudi for sharing this very educational post. To my readers, I would like to say that even taking small steps towards a healthier diet can have big benefits. When I first started my “cancer-fighting diet”, I did not eliminate any foods. Rather I added foods that are proven to fight cancer, like berries, broccoli, and cauliflower. Gradually, I decreased the amounts of meats and added more and more fruits and veggies. After about a year, I had no desire for meat any longer and in its place, I had beans, legumes and nuts for protein. As long as you are eating MAINLY a plant based diet, you are doing something good for your body! Here is a good way to begin: Meatless Monday. Try eating plant-based for one day of the week. And don’t forget, plant-based does not mean eating only salads…you can have soups, stews, burgers (black bean burgers), pasta dishes…..the possibilites are endless!