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Clarifying the Complex World of Nutrition Science

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Cabbages and Cancer: the Most Powerful Cancer Prevention Tools We Now Have

by Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.

We Already Know That Cabbage-Family Foods Reduce Cancer Risk ... Now, Scientists Have Discovered the Active Ingredient - and it Works By Balancing Your Estrogen Metabolism

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We all know Grandma was right when she told us to eat our vegetables. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, some of us have been doing so, especially those of us approaching Grandma's age. Over the last decade or so, researchers have added their findings to Grandma's advice, concluding in one after another study that more vegetables in our diets help reduce our risk of heart disease, strokes, cancer and other ailments. So what's new about eating our vegetables?

Researchers into sex-hormone-related cancers (breast, prostate, uterus, ovaries) have discovered that natural substances found in specific vegetables may help lower our sex- hormone-related cancer risk by predictably altering estrogen metabolism in at least one specific way strongly associated with lower cancer risk. Other researchers suggest that specific hormone supplementation may decrease the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women with a family history of this disease.

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There's enough research in medical and scientific journals to make a review worthwhile, and though absolute conclusions can't be drawn, there's enough data to allow us and our physicians to improve our chances of preventing sex-hormone-related cancer.

I promise to keep what follows in plain English. However, for those who get bored with research findings and the inevitable background discussion - and just want a bottom line, here it is:

  • To significantly cut our risk of prostate, breast, uterine, ovarian and other sex-hormone-related cancers, eat more flaxseed (the seed itself, not the oil) as well as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and soy.
  • In addition to eating the right vegetables and seeds, there are some safe, natural supplements to use, specifically: di-indolylmethane, chrysin (for men), and Vitex Agnes (for women). Iodine, as we will see later, is another possibility. These supplements may cut the risk of sex-hormone-related cancers by balancing estrogen metabolism in a very specific way described below.
  • In some cases, progesterone or DHEA supplementation might be indicated.
  • Lycopene may also be useful for prevention of cancer, prostate and others, but the way in which lycopene lowers cancer risk isn't known.
  • It's also important to know that more and more tests are becoming available, at reasonable (and even low) prices, to help assess the risk of sex-hormone-related cancer. (See Medical Tests to Assess Sex-Hormone-Related Cancer Risk).

Sex Hormones and Cancer

This topic has been of increasing concern since the introduction of so-called "hormone replacement therapy": methyl-testosterone for men in the 1940s, and horse estrogen (Premarin) for women in the 1960s, both of which have been proven to increase cancer risk. We won't waste any ink or further space on these ridiculous, but patentable, "treatments", except to predict that our descendants will put them in the same category of "historically bad ideas" as chemotherapy and radiation to "cure" cancer and bleeding George Washington to death.

Those of us who are "into" natural medicine have turned to the logical alternative: Natural Hormone Replacement (NHR), using hormones identical in every way to the ones our own bodies produce, in quantities to which our bodies are accustomed, on schedules for which our bodies are already "programmed". In this way, we hope to minimize our risk of cancer from hormone ingestion while maximizing our chances of preventing heart and blood vessel disease, osteoporosis, and cognitive decline. [For extensive discussion of natural hormone replacement, see the books Natural Hormone Replacement for Women Over 45 by myself and John Morgenthaler, and Maximize Your Vitality and Potency for Men Over 40 by myself and Lane Lenard, Ph.D.]

Of course, sex-hormone-related cancer has been on a decades-long uptrend among those of us who never took a molecule of hormone replacement. Young women as well as old are developing more breast cancers than ever before, and the rate of prostate cancer is climbing among men, most of whom haven't taken testosterone. Our entire adult population, whether "into" natural medicine and natural hormone replacement or not, has at least a theoretical interest in not developing and perhaps dying of sex-hormone-related cancers.

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Editor's Note:

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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.

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