Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Avoiding Breast-Cancer Inducing Chemicals

Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors
12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them
Article courtesy of the Environmental Working Group

There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.
Here are 12 of the worst hormone disrupters, how they do their dirty deeds, and some tips on how to avoid them.
Some may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but do you really want a chemical used in plastics imitating the sex hormone estrogen in your body? No! Unfortunately, this synthetic hormone can trick the body into thinking it’s the real thing – and the results aren’t pretty. BPA has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease, and according to government tests, 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies!
How to avoid it? Go fresh instead of canned – many food cans are lined with BPA – or research which companies don’t use BPA or similar chemicals in their products. Say no to receipts, since thermal paper is often coated with BPA. And avoid plastics marked with a “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. Not all of these plastics contain BPA, but many do – and it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to keeping synthetic hormones out of your body. For more tips, check out: www.ewg.org/bpa/
Dioxins are multi-taskers… but not in a good way! They form during many industrial processes when chlorine or bromine are burned in the presence of carbon and oxygen. Dioxins can disrupt the delicate ways that both male and female sex hormone signaling occurs in the body. This is a bad thing! Here’s why: Recent research has shown that exposure to low levels of dioxin in the womb and early in life can both permanently affect sperm quality and lower the sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years. But that’s not all! Dioxins are very long-lived, build up both in the body and in the food chain, are powerful carcinogens and can also affect the immune and reproductive systems.
How to avoid it? That’s pretty difficult, since the ongoing industrial release of dioxin has meant that the American food supply is widely contaminated. Products including meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter are most likely to be contaminated, but you can cut down on your exposure by eating fewer animal products.
What happens when you introduce highly toxic chemicals into nature and turn your back? For one thing, feminization of male frogs. That’s right, researchers have found that exposure to even low levels of the herbicide atrazine can turn male frogs into females that produce completely viable eggs. Atrazine is widely used on the majority of corn crops in the United States, and consequently it’s a pervasive drinking water contaminant. Atrazine has been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation in animals, and some research has linked it to prostate cancer in people.
How to avoid it? Buy organic produce and get a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine. For help finding a suitable filter, check out EWG’s buying guide: www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/
Did you know that a specific signal programs cells in our bodies to die? It’s totally normal and healthy for 50 billion cells in your body to die every day! But studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates can trigger what’s known as “death-inducing signaling” in testicular cells, making them die earlier than they should. Yep, that’s cell death – in your man parts. If that’s not enough, studies have linked phthalates to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities.
How to avoid it? A good place to start is to avoid plastic food containers, children’s toys (some phthalates are already banned in kid’s products), and plastic wrap made from PVC, which has the recycling label #3. Some personal care products also contain phthalates, so read the labels and avoid products that simply list added “fragrance,” since this catch-all term sometimes means hidden phthalates. Find phthalate-free personal care products with EWG’s Skin Deep Database: www.ewg.org/skindeep/
Who needs food tainted with rocket fuel?! That’s right, perchlorate, a component in rocket fuel, contaminates much of our produce and milk, according to EWG and government test data. When perchlorate gets into your body it competes with the nutrient iodine, which the thyroid gland needs to make thyroid hormones. Basically, this means that if you ingest too much of it you can end up altering your thyroid hormone balance. This is important because it’s these hormones that regulate metabolism in adults and are critical for proper brain and organ development in infants and young children.
How to avoid it? You can reduce perchlorate in your drinking water by installing a reverse osmosis filter. (You can get help finding one at: www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide) As for food, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid perchlorate, but you can reduce its potential effects on you by making sure you are getting enough iodine in your diet. Eating iodized salt is one good way.
Fire retardants
What do breast milk and polar bears have in common? In 1999, some Swedish scientists studying women’s breast milk discovered something totally unexpected: The milk contained an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in fire retardants, and the levels had been doubling every five years since 1972! These incredibly persistent chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, have since been found to contaminate the bodies of people and wildlife around the globe – even polar bears. These chemicals can imitate thyroid hormones in our bodies and disrupt their activity. That can lead to lower IQ, among other significant health effects. While several kinds of PBDEs have now been phased out, this doesn’t mean that toxic fire retardants have gone away. PBDEs are incredibly persistent, so they’re going to be contaminating people and wildlife for decades to come.
How to avoid it? It’s virtually impossible, but passing better toxic chemical laws that require chemicals to be tested before they go on the market would help reduce our exposure. A few things that can you can do in the meantime include: use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can cut down on toxic-laden house dust; avoid reupholstering foam furniture; take care when replacing old carpet (the padding underneath may contain PBDEs). Find more tips at: www.ewg.org/pbdefree/
You may or may not like heavy metal music, but lead is one heavy metal you want to avoid. It’s well known that lead is toxic, especially to children. Lead harms almost every organ system in the body and has been linked to a staggering array of health effects, including permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage and nervous system problems. But few people realize that one other way that lead may affect your body is by disrupting your hormones. In animals, lead has been found to lower sex hormone levels. Research has also shown that lead can disrupt the hormone signaling that regulates the body’s major stress system (called the HPA axis). You probably have more stress in your life than you want, so the last thing you need is something making it harder for your body to deal with it – especially when this stress system is implicated in high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
How to avoid it? Keep your home clean and well maintained. Crumbling old paint is a major source of lead exposure, so get rid of it carefully. A good water filter can also reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water. (Check out www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/ for help finding a filter.) And if you need another reason to eat better, studies have also shown that children with healthy diets absorb less lead.
Arsenic isn’t just for murder mysteries anymore. In fact, this toxin is lurking in your food and drinking water. If you eat enough of it, arsenic will kill you outright. In smaller amounts, arsenic can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer. Basically, bad news. Less well known: Arsenic messes with your hormones! Specifically, it can interfere with normal hormone functioning in the glucocorticoid system that regulates how our bodies process sugars and carbohydrates. What does that mean for you? Well, disrupting the glucocorticoid system has been linked to weight gain/loss, protein wasting, immunosuppression, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), osteoporosis, growth retardation and high blood pressure.
How to avoid it? Reduce your exposure by using a water filter that lowers arsenic levels. For help finding a good water filter, check out EWG’s buying guide: www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/
Caution: That sushi you are eating could be hazardous to your health. Mercury, a naturally occurring but toxic metal, gets into the air and the oceans primarily though burning coal. Eventually, it can end up on your plate in the form of mercury-contaminated seafood. Pregnant women are the most at risk from the toxic effects of mercury, since the metal is known to concentrate in the fetal brain and can interfere with brain development. Mercury is also known to bind directly to one particular hormone that regulates women’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, interfering with normal signaling pathways. In other words, hormones don’t work so well when they’ve got mercury stuck to them! The metal may also play a role in diabetes, since mercury has been shown to damage cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which is critical for the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.
How to avoid it? For people who still want to eat (sustainable) seafood with lots of healthy fats but without a side of toxic mercury, wild salmon and farmed trout are good choices.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)
The perfluorinated chemicals used to make non-stick cookware can stick to you. Perfluorochemicals are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent that 99 percent of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. One particularly notorious compound called PFOA has been shown to be “completely resistant to biodegradation.” In other words, PFOA doesn’t break down in the environment – ever. That means that even though the chemical was banned after decades of use, it will be showing up in people’s bodies for countless generations to come. This is worrisome, since PFOA exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other health issues. Scientists are still figuring out how PFOA affects the human body, but animal studies have found that it can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels.
How to avoid it? Skip non-stick pans as well as stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets.
Organophosphate pesticides
Neurotoxic organophosphate compounds that the Nazis produced in huge quantities for chemical warfare during World War II were luckily never used. After the war ended, American scientists used the same chemistry to develop a long line of pesticides that target the nervous systems of insects. Despite many studies linking organophosphate exposure to effects on brain development, behavior and fertility, they are still among the more common pesticides in use today. A few of the many ways that organophosphates can affect the human body include interfering with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone and altering thyroid hormone levels.
How to avoid it? Buy organic produce and use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which can help you find the fruits and vegetables that have the fewest pesticide residues. Check it out at: www.ewg.org/foodnews/
Glycol Ethers
Shrunken testicles: Do we have your full attention now? This is one thing that can happen to rats exposed to chemicals called glycol ethers, which are common solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics. Worried? You should be. The European Union says that some of these chemicals “may damage fertility or the unborn child.” Studies of painters have linked exposure to certain glycol ethers to blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts. And children who were exposed to glycol ethers from paint in their bedrooms had substantially more asthma and allergies.
How to avoid it? Start by checking out EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning (www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/) and avoid products with ingredients such as 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Breast Cancer Scrapbook

I recently cleaned out a series of drawers and closets and came across odds and ends that hark back to my breast cancer battle days. I found a plastic bag full of cotton bandanas that were my head fashion mainstays during summer 2008. I decided to hold on to the pink paisely handkerchief--the one I wore when they wheeled me in to get my first mastectomy--and get rid of the others.

My breast cancer scrapbook
Underneath the bathroom sink cabinet, I pulled out two blonde wigs. One was a  short bob. The other had long, flaxen hair. I remember when I bought that one, I thought I would finally be able to sport the long, thick hair I was never not born with.  Of course, I couldn't help but try them on.  They were all matted up needed some seriou re-styling. Should I toss them in a trash bag or keep them? In the end, I just put them back under the sink.

I found my old straw fedora hat still sitting on the top shelf of my closet. It's crumpled with a band of dirt circling the inside rim. Like the wigs, I couldn't bring myself to throw it out. It's still there.

Then I came upon the mother lode: A pink scrapbook full of cards, letters, notes and journal entries. An old friend had given it to me in the midst of my health crisis. She's one smart cookie and knew full well it was the perfect gift--even if I didn't know it at the time.

I opened the scrapbook and read the cards, the letters and of course my journal entries.  Each item helped me relive the time and place when I received the card or written the thought. To use an old cliche, if the house started burning down, this scrapbook, the photos and the cats would be the first things I'd scramble for.

It might seem strange that I would want an album full of memorabilia that marks such a difficult time. Like most scrapbooks, this was no document of a fabulous vacation. But that's just the way it is. If nothing else, it reminds me that I survived cancer. By comparision, whatever other challenges are going on in my life now is just a walk in the park.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wine, Weight and Walking

Today on the radio I heard the top three things you can do to prevent breast cancer is to A: Dial down the wine drinking. B: Watch your weight. C: Try to walk 30 minutes every day. 

To keep these tips easy to remember, think of them as the three Ws: Wine, Weight and Walking. I trolled the internet to get the facts that support the reasons why women should abide the three Ws. I found my answers in a section of an article from Woman's Day magazine that was written by Stacey Colino. Here's why should all do WWW.

1. Having a drink a day is probably too much.
Alcohol may be good for your heart, but when it comes to your breasts, it’s another story: Research suggests that even one drink per day could raise your breast cancer risk, says Christine Laronga, MD, clinical director of breast surgical oncology at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. To be safe, limit it to three drinks per week—but don’t get in the habit of “saving” your weekly drinks and downing them all in one night. If you regularly have two or three glasses of wine or cocktails at once, your risk of breast cancer jumps to 20% higher than if you abstained completely, according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The way alcohol is metabolized in a woman’s body may increase estrogen levels in the bloodstream, which increases your breast cancer risk.
Research has shown that getting enough folic acid (folate)—at least 600 mcg per day—may help undo some of the damage of regular drinking. You’ll find it in orange juice, leafy greens, beans and fortified breakfast cereals. For extra insurance, ask your doctor if you should take a multivitamin that contains it. Photo: iStock

2. What you weight matters more than what you eat.
Though it’s true that a healthy diet may help, whether individual foods can really lower your breast cancer risk is up for debate. But there’s no denying the powerful impact of weight. Numerous studies have found that extra pounds increase your risk of postmenopausal breast cancer or having a recurrence. “The more body fat you have, the more estrogen your body stores,” and estrogen can stimulate tumor growth, explains Dr. Laronga. The good news: If you’re overweight, slimming down may help reduce your risk.

3. Just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week can cut your breast cancer risk by nearly 20%.
Regular exercise (2.5 hours a week, which you can break up into five 30-minute brisk walks) not only helps to keep your weight in check, it can also lower estrogen levels and boost your immune system, helping to prevent any abnormal cells from growing and spreading. And if you do get breast cancer, keep moving. Breast cancer survivors who did the equivalent of one to two hours of brisk walking a week had a 40% lower risk of dying from breast cancer, according to a study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

*Stacey Colino is an award-winning writer who specializes in health and psychology. Her work has appeared in many national magazines and books.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Breast Cancer Survivor Opens Up About Sex

Tracey Gorman at North Bondi Beach.
BREAST cancer survivor Tracey Gorman couldn't remove her bra during sex for four years after her mastectomy.
She had lost all confidence in her body and sexuality - so much so she refused to undress in front of her then husband and wore her prosthesis to bed every night.
"It became part of me,"' the 51-year-old said. "It was horrible and heavy but I never took my bra off because it was my security.
"I didn't want anyone to see me like that (naked) when I couldn't stand to see myself."
Cancer free for 15 years now, it has taken her most of that time to come to terms with the changes to her body after her treatment for breast cancer.
Ms Gorman was a sporty, mother-of-four sons under eight when she was diagnosed at age 36.
The loss of her breast and mane of red hair robbed her sense of identity, leaving her feeling "less than a whole woman.
"I don't know what was worse losing my hair or the boob," she said.
"My hair was my thing so that was really hard and after I lost my breast I always felt uneven like I wasn't balanced."
Despite the loving support of her then husband, Grahame, Ms Gorman said her husband's constant reassurances weren't enough to ease her anxieties.
"He was an amazingly supportive husband and it never changed his view of me sexually but it changed me - it was all me,"' she said.
"He would tell me I was beautiful but I didn't feel whole anymore and I wasn't comfortable in my body anymore.
"We had been together 15 years and were extremely comfortable with each other and had great sex life but after the cancer, I wouldn't show my body and started to cover up and that did put a strain on things."
Ms Gorman said her breast reconstruction at age 40 helped boost her confidence.
Four years ago she left her husband of 25 years, though she hastens to add it had nothing to do with her illness.
Ms Gorman's experience of struggling with body image and sexuality after cancer is now being recognised by experts as a growing and significant issue for survivors.
International research shows more than 40 per cent of people experience sexual problems after cancer treatment - with almost 70 per cent of patients and their partners admitting they need help to cope with the changes to their bodies, dealing with image issues and intimacy.
NSW Cancer Council's Annie Miller, who heads the Survivorship Unit, said the focus on sexual issues has grown as more and more younger people continue to be diagnosed with cancer - and survival rates improve.
"It's people in that 18-45 age bracket that are coming to us and saying we want to talk more about sexuality and fertility because no-one's talking about sex, so what are we supposed to do about this,'' she said.
In an Australian first, the Cancer Council and Sydney University researchers have been granted funding to develop and launch a web-based psycho-educational resource.
Ms Miller said the Rekindle project, which starts mid next year, will address sexual concerns and needs of survivors and their partners, across all cancer-types but tailored to the unique concerns of each user.
"The wonderful thing is we are going to be able to get to people in rural and regional areas who are really desperate for this because not many people would feel comfortable going to their GP to discuss sexual function," she said.
Relationship counsellor and sexologist, Dr Nikki Goldstein said sex was an important aspect for quality of life - a topic reluctantly broached and sometimes overlooked by people just grateful to be in remission.
"The way we feel about our body really plays a part in what happens in the bedroom and that's an issue that isnt really spoken about," she said.
"It's not just about getting this banging, hot Fifty Shades of Grey sex life back - it's about valuing yourself as a sexual being; being able to feel sexual again and being able to connect with someone.
  1. The Sunday Telegraph
  2. October 12, 2013 10:00PM